Steve Craig, Stop Police Crimes, CAARPR
The ‘very serious’ and very appointed Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force just limped away from their final community forum, held at Sullivan High School in Rogers Park. Their listening tour (anyone remember the school closings ‘listening tour’?) began three weeks earlier at a lightly attended meeting on the Westside, proceeded to South Shore, then Pilsen, before wobbling to a stop under a chorus of “We don’t need no task force!” chants.
The task force welcomed community input and promised to ‘seriously’ consider community ‘suggestions’. These tailors of the emperor’s new clothes promised it would be different this time. They meant to deliver a serious report with ‘pragmatic’ suggestions to repair the ‘relationship’ between the community and the Chicago police and ‘rejuvenate’ the public trust in the CPD. Seriously?
The Westside forum began under a watchful police presence. Besides chairperson Lori Lightfoot, who also chairs the Police Board, three other members of the Police Board were introduced as ‘dignitaries’ and accorded their own side table, stage right. The meeting dragged dryly into the night like an overblown CAPS meeting. A mild buzz was generated by the Westside NAACP criticism of the FOP and their criminally enabling contract. The biggest applause from the audience was reserved for the speaker who accused the task force of fraud and the ex-gangbanger who wished his felony conviction didn’t prevent him from arming himself to defend his community from the police.
The largest of the forums was held at the South Shore Cultural Center. Mainstream and community press were gathered around. Gone was the Police Board side table. Chicago Alliance and community members showed up in force to speak out and expose the façade of the task force and call for community control of the police rather than community suggestions delivered by an advisory task force to a whimsical mayor. Calls for CPAC were met with slack-jawed looks by the task force from their riser. Police SUV’s remained parked in front as the knot of white cops joked with park security.
The Pilsen meeting was dominated by calls for CPAC and community control. Nine separate speakers stepped to the mic to audaciously suggest a democratic solution to empower the people to determine how their communities are policed. The task force wouldn’t respond to our comments, as if the words community control had never been uttered. They only rambled on about ‘pragmatic’ suggestions on police sensitivity training or whether it’s best to withhold video evidence of police crimes for 60 or 90 days.
The task force began the Northside meeting on a defensive note. Ms. Lightfoot wearily repeated that, though technically powerless, the task force intended to issue their fact-finding (who knew?) report by the end of March and suggest sweeping changes to remedy the tarnished image of CPD. And it’s always been about image and PR spin, not substantive or institutional change. Again, audience remarks focused on the insincerity of the task force and the need for community control. Accusations were leveled at the police, including a passionate indictment by a representative of the Bettie Jones family. Eloquent prepared remarks were read by members of BYP100. Finally, a sea of Rekia Boyd Yellow rose in call and response and surged to the stage, first among their demands: a Civilian Police Accountability Council. More community members waited to speak, but the task force had stopped listening many forums ago. A stern row of cops stared down from the stage as the task force slipped into the night.