CON­SENT DE­CREE:

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - EDITORIALS -

steps in a process that un­folded af­ter black teenager Laquan McDon­ald was shot and killed by a white po­lice of­fi­cer who has since been con­victed of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der.

A sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice con­cluded — un­sur­pris­ingly — that Chicago cops are poorly trained and su­per­vised; prone to un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence against civil­ians, es­pe­cially mi­nori­ties; and rarely held ac­count­able for mis­con­duct.

Illi­nois At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lisa Madi­gan’s law­suit forced the city to the table to ne­go­ti­ate the con­sent de­cree — a blue­print for re­form, over­seen by an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor re­port­ing to a fed­eral judge.

De­spite the FOP’s dire warn­ings, 170 po­lice of­fi­cers took part in fo­cus groups to help shape the draft agree­ment. They had a lot to say. In a sum­mary of the dis­cus­sions, fa­cil­i­ta­tors wrote that the of­fi­cers “were en­gaged in the dis­cus­sion de­spite the fact that they were free to de­cline to par­tic­i­pate; their ob­vi­ous deep frus­tra­tion with the cur­rent state of crime and policing in Chicago; and their dis­agree­ment with the need for a con­sent de­cree in the first place.”

What are the big­gest chal­lenges cited by of­fi­cers? Lack of sup­port — from su­per­vi­sors, politi­cians, the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, com­mu­nity mem­bers and the news me­dia. In­ad­e­quate train­ing and equip­ment. Of­fi­cers said they are ex­pected to be men­tal health coun­selors, vic­tim ad­vo­cates and so­cial work­ers, but they are not pre­pared for those roles. De­part­ment poli­cies are poorly com­mu­ni­cated, they said, but of­fi­cers are pun­ished for not fol­low­ing them.

They’re re­quired to be trained on equip­ment they don’t have. They don’t get enough prac­tice with firearms. Re­cruits come out of the academy un­pre­pared to work the streets and are as­signed to field train­ing of­fi­cers who are poorly equipped to men­tor them. Af­ter that, they get lit­tle hands-on train­ing, mostly avail­able only on the day shift, and they can’t be spared for train­ing any­way be­cause of man­power short­ages. Su­per­vi­sors don’t su­per­vise be­cause they’re afraid of mak­ing mis­takes that will keep them from be­ing pro­moted.

Most of these are long­stand­ing com­plaints that could (and should) have been ad­dressed with­out a con­sent de­cree. They weren’t. That’s a strong ar­gu­ment for fed­eral over­sight. But of­fi­cers are wary of the added scru­tiny and the fo­cus on hold­ing er­rant cops ac­count­able for mis­con­duct. They worry that an hon­est mis­take will cost them their liveli­hood. They say fear of be­ing sec­ond-guessed could cause them to hes­i­tate in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, cost­ing their lives.

Here’s the bot­tom line: Po­lice of­fi­cers are given a badge and gun and the author­ity to shoot cit­i­zens. The peo­ple who grant that power have ev­ery right to de­mand that it isn’t abused. That’s the com­pact be­tween pub­lic and po­lice.

The right equip­ment, train­ing and su­per­vi­sion can give of­fi­cers con­fi­dence to do their jobs safely, pro­fes­sion­ally and with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Chicago cops may not wel­come a con­sent de­cree. But if they want all those other things, this is how to get them.

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