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DOJ report points to CPD problems with people of color, trans, LGB communities
by Matt Simonette

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A Department of Justice ( DOJ ) report, which was released Jan. 13, said that the Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) has been using excessive force and violating the rights of Chicagoans, and issues a number of suggestions intended to bridge the chasms between CPD and many of its constituents.

Among the recommendations included in the report were adding LGBT liaison officers in each district, and more stringent enforcement of policies protecting transgender individuals.

One portion of the 164-page report details recommendations to improve community policing strategies that would supposedly "humanize" police officers and community members in each others' eyes. To that end, the DOJ recommends utilizing community liaison officers for various minority groups within each police district, among them the LGBT community, Muslims, limited English-speakers and persons with disabilities. The report further suggests that the liaisons meet monthly to coordinate outreach efforts and strategies. There is currently only one CPD liaison for the LGBT community.

The report also points to deficient investigations into hate-crimes, often because of poor communication within the department and poor training for police officers about the logistics of hate-crimes. CPD's Civil Rights Unit must be notified before hate-crimes investigations can begin, but the unit only has two investigators for the entire city. In recent years, according to the report, the Civil Rights Unit has never opened a hate-crimes investigation in the murder of a trans person.

"Not only are members of this community upset that these crimes were never investigated as hate crimes, but they are also concerned that CPD's failure to solve any of the murders reflects a lack of commitment to these cases," said the report.

The DOJ report further maintains that more outreach is needed to assuage concerns by members of the trans community that their rights will be respected should they be in police custody or otherwise interact with officers.

"CPD updated its General Order governing interactions with transgender individuals in December 2015, which is commendable," the report said. "However, the community has expressed concerns about the policy, including that it fails to ensure that transgender individuals are classified by their gender identity and does not require officers to ask an individual their preference regarding the gender of the officer to conduct a search."

In a Dec. 13 statement following the DOJ report's release, Karen Sheley, police practices project director for ACLU Illinois, called the report "an indictment of policing in Chicago, from how police behave on the streets of the City to how police are managed. Segregation in Chicago magnifies the impact of these policies on communities of color. Black and Latino Chicagoans face the worst of police misconduct, disproportionately experiencing unconstitutional behavior like excessive use of force. Out of date polices and lack of training result in harm for people with disabilities, especially related to mental health, and transgender people. … Today must be a wake-up call to change how Chicago is policed."

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