By Nissa Rhee, Yazmin Emilia Dominguez and Maggie Sivit

Dirksen Federal building. (Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

Dirksen Federal building. (Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

This story was originally published in the Chicago Defender.

For two days last week, a courtroom in downtown Chicago was transformed into a forum for citizens’ griefs, hopes and fears about the Chicago Police Department.

United States District Judge Robert Dow called the hearings so members of the public could comment on the proposed police consent decree before it is finalized.

The decree, a court-enforced agreement between the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago, could dramatically change how policing is done in Chicago. It draws upon the recommendations from the Police Accountability Task Force’s 2016 report and the Department of Justice’s 2017 investigation into the CPD’s unconstitutional use of force.

Mothers whose sons had been shot and killed by police officers, faith leaders and decades-long veterans of the CPD were among the nearly 100 people who came to voice their opinions on the decree and how policing is done in Chicago.

Here is some of what they had to say:

On how the police treat people of color

“We must end the assumption that Black and Brown men are a target regardless of whether they wear a hoodie or sport a sag in their pants or wear a three-piece suit … I am tired of paying higher and higher taxes partly due to the payments to families abused by the CPD.” – Rev. Lisa Goods, member of the Community Renewal Society

“During my interrogation, it became clear that the police didn’t have to prove I was guilty, I had to prove that I was innocent.” – Michael Harrington of Network 49, who said he was arrested after being falsely accused of a shooting

On police abuse

“How many times can we hear [from police officers], ‘I was afraid for my life’? If you’re so afraid, this isn’t a job for you.” – Edvette Jones, youth leader in Rogers Park

“We don’t need you [the police] the way you think we need you. If you look at violence against women, the majority of it is intimate partner violence, and police aren’t doing anything to stop it. You know why? Because you can’t stop it in your own home.” – Crista Noel of the Women’s All Points Bulletin (Ed. note: An ABC 7 investigation found there have been over 5,000 domestic violence complaints filed against Chicago police officers between 2000 and 2017.)

“400 days of cover up, 16 shots, 5 million dollars of hush money … That is money that could have been spent building our city.” – Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition

On the need to end violence in Chicago

“The police didn’t make this environment. The criminals made this environment. I want my Chicago safe and this decree is not the way to do it.” – Michael Garza, CPD officer for 25 years

“Until we start explaining to these kids that their personal choices have consequences, no consent degree is going to change anything.” – John Cantanzara, CPD officer for 24 years

On what’s at stake with the consent decree

“To this day, my office receives false police reports that don’t match the evidence … We need the oversight that the consent decree will bring to the police department.” – Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli

“The consent decree is a hopeful first step. It’s not everything, but it is a step in the right direction, and I hope it’s successful. If it’s not, it will blatantly showcase that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department and the entire justice department in Chicago does not care about Black and Brown people. The only response I heard from the officers [today] was about their pay, their conditions and what they were gonna have to go through. But it’s not about them.” – Taylore Norwood of Good Kids, Mad City

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If you did not get a chance to speak at the public hearings last week, you can submit a written statement to the court by November 2. Mail or drop off your statement to:
Clerk of Court
United States District Court
Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Building
219 S. Dearborn St., 20th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604

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