A group of West Side ministers is demanding that Chicago's newly appointed top cop discuss reforms for the department that might help prevent the kind of violence that happened in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
On July 19, about 60 members of the Chicago Clergy Coalition for Police Accountability gathered outside of Chicago Police Department headquarters demanding a meeting with newly appointed superintendent Eddie Johnson. They also hand-delivered a 15-point reform plan to Johnson's office. The superintendent was in Washington, D.C. at the time.
"When the Baton Rouge shooting happened we reconvened to discuss changes to our message," said Rev. Marshall Hatch, the chairman of the Leaders Network, the group of West Side clergymen that hatched the idea for the July 19 demonstration.
"We did not want to come across as though we were railing against the department after it had just suffered a great tragedy in Baton Rogue," said Hatch, who is also the pastor of the New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Garfield Park. "So we focused on looking at ways we could show support for the department while still challenging it at the same time."
The plan includes requiring officers to do cultural competency and training as part of their overall academy training so that they can better understand the communities they serve. It also calls for the creation of department of diversity and the replacement of the city's current system of reviewing police misconduct cases, Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), with a more effective independent agency.
"IPRA just doesn't work," said Hatch. "We need a review board in place that will look at these cases fairly and reasonably and make decisions based on the evidence. This is what we are hoping that the new superintendent and the mayor will work on with us."
Hatch said the superintendent had planned to return from his trip to Washington later in the week. A meeting between the top cop and the ministers was planned for last week, the pastor noted.
Along with discussing the reforms that members of the religious community have fleshed out, Hatch also said he planned on asking the superintendent about whether there's a deadline to implement programs that address the city's pressing issues with police brutality accusations and gun violence.
"I felt the rally went well," said Rev. Cy Fields, president of the Leaders Network and pastor of New Landmark Church. "It was great to see so many religious leaders unite over a very important cause."
Fields said he was not concerned about holding the rally a mere two days after the police shootings in Baton Rouge, where a lone gunman killed three officers, arguing that the clergymen can both "show sympathy and compassion about the tragic loss of life, while also start conversations about things we can correct."
The pastor noted that, although he understands reform takes time and that the ministers' plan wouldn't be immediately implemented, he nonetheless doesn't want the proposals to get lost in political gridlock and red tape.
"I understand reform takes time," said Fields. "But I just want the superintendent to know that we do hope to see steady progress in the direction of change. Until then, we will continue to make our presence felt."
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