Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Chicago Police Task Force Receives Advice at First Community Meeting
A forum held to get input on recommended changes in the Chicago Police Department heard from city residents.

By Craig Wall
FEB 02 2016 09:44PM CST

CHICAGO (FOX 32 / AP) — A forum held to get input on recommended changes in the Chicago Police Department heard from city residents.

In opening the first of four planned forums, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said the intent of the Police Accountability Task Force was to "lay bare some very tough issues, some very hard truths."

The Police Accountability Task Force met with residents Tuesday at a church on Chicago's West Side. Task force officials say they're looking for Chicagoans to comment on how to improve accountability, oversight and training of police officers.

“We really are at an incredibly critical moment in the history of our city and all of us have a role to play,” said Task Force Chairman Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot promised the sparse crowd in attendance Tuesday that their voices would be heard, and those who came out on the rainy and chilly evening made it clear what they thought were some of the chief problems with the police department.

“If you are not sincerely and wholeheartedly dealing with racism, you are not going to get to the bottom of this issue. It is systemic in the police force and the legal system,” said West Side resident Pamela Hunt.

The task force promised that was on their agenda for change.

“We think issues of systemic racism, unconscious bias and the conscious bias are all part of the problem and need to be addressed both in terms of training, recognizing it when it occurs, acknowledging it and dealing with it,” said Task Force member Randolph Stone.

One resident pointed to the Laquan McDonald case and the critical need to truly hold police officers accountable when they break the law or abuse the public trust.

“If Jason Van Dyke went to jail that would scare some of these policemen from just killing our innocent grandkids,” said West Side resident “Big Daddy.”

Others called for the overhaul of the agency that investigates police shootings to truly make them independent, as well as the need to better train officers on how to treat people.

“The treatment of the community residents is less than it should be, according to them. We want equal treatment and we believe the police department needs continuing education treatment each year, continually, not just one time,” said Pastor Floyd James of Greater Rock Baptist Church.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel started the task force in early December after a video was released showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times. The officer, Van Dyke, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the death of Laquan McDonald.

Members of the public who want to share comments can come to a community forum, mailing a letter or postcard, email or via the task force's website.

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