As part of the United States Department of Justice investigation into the pattern and practice of the Chicago Police Department, the DOJ held public forums and welcomed feedback from community members. Several CIC Summer 2016 interns attended the forums as well as wrote letters to the Justice Department with suggestions on how to rectify police and prosecutorial misconduct in Cook County.
The Department of Justice,
My name is Frances McDonald. I am a second year student at The University of Chicago and an intern at the Chicago Innocence Center. I grew up in the neighborhood of Beverly, one of the safest neighborhoods in Chicago, predominantly white and has one of the highest average real estate in the city. With that being said, I grew up very privileged and did not understand any of the corruption and brutality happening to my fellow Chicagoans who were not as fortunate as I. As I went to high school, a selective enrollment college prep high school in the middle of downtown, and on to The University of Chicago, I have learned quite a bit. But, starting my internship at the Chicago Innocence this summer, investigating wrongful conviction cases while researching systemic oppression and injustices right here in Cook County, so much has been revealed to me from a very objective point of view.
The problem is a multiple organ system failure. Only investigating CPD is simply not enough. But, to focus on CPD, their training consists of 110 hours spent on firearms and defense while only 8 hours focused on conflict resolution. There is no training in fair interrogations and because of this, torture is still widely used by police, putting thousands of innocent people in prison for crimes they did not commit. 60 Minutes declared Cook County the false confession capital of the world.
The major reason why police continue to torture, brutalize and murder is because there is no accountability. Police are rewarded for every good or bad arrest. They are protected by the failure of releasing public records. They are protected by the negligence and corruption of the States’ Attorney’s Office. They are protected by right wing prosecutors, who 95% of them are white. They are protected by the judges, former right wing white prosecutors. All of this allows for the continued terrorization and harassment of communities of color in Chicago. It is a fact that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America. This allows for the police to enter neighborhoods that are predominantly, if not all, communities of color and almost always the poorest communities, to attack and brutalize those who may just be walking down the street. It is a system of taking advantage of the poor people of this city.
Changing the attitudes and hearts of the criminal justice system of Chicago and Cook County is not enough. There must be real lawful change that will allow for the citizens of Chicago to be protected, and for better trustful relationships to be built between the people and the police. Accountability is what is needed. It is up to the DOJ to fix this.