Chicago Police Union Can’t Intervene in Excessive Force Lawsuit

CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge told a Chicago police union its attempt to intervene in Illinois’ lawsuit against the City of Chicago over police brutality against blacks and Latinos came nine months too late.

In August 2017, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked a judge to stop police officers from engaging in a pattern of excessive force against Chicagoans, an issue that the state says reached a “flashpoint” with the release of video footage in November 2015 showing police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

In the months since taking legal action, the state has worked with the city to draft a consent decree to reform the police department, which has come under increased scrutiny for its treatment of minorities. If the court finalizes the decree, the state will appoint an independent monitor to assess the effectiveness of the reforms. Illinois says Chicago has paid close to $662 million in settlements, judgments, and legal fees related to police misconduct from 2004 to early 2016.

In June, police union Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 filed a motion to intervene, arguing that certain parts of the draft consent decree conflict with its city contract and violate state laws.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow ruled Thursday that the motion to intervene came too late because the union knew months ago that the collective bargaining agreement with the city might conflict with the lawsuit’s goals.

“The decision to put the Chicago Police Department in a consent decree is a potential catastrophe for Chicago,” union president Kevin Graham said in an August 2017 statement. “Already facing an explosion of crime because the police have been so handcuffed from doing their job by the intense anti-police movement in the city, this consent decree will only handcuff the police even further.”

Dow concluded in his 25-page ruling that the union “must have known about its interest in the case when the complaint was filed but delayed nine months before filing suit.”

In March, Illinois offered the union the same rights as a coalition of community groups to raise objections and remark on the consent decree, but the union refused to participate, according to Dow.

Dow said the union and police officers would be given “multiple opportunities” during court proceedings to cite any portions of the decree that conflict with its bargaining rights.

“Before deciding whether to enter a consent decree, and on what terms, the court will give the FOP and indeed all Chicago police officers every opportunity to be heard – just not as parties to the litigation,” Dow wrote.

City spokesman Bill McCaffrey and Illinois Attorney General spokeswoman Maura Possley declined to comment on the ruling. Union spokesman Martin Preib was not immediately available for comment Friday.

A status conference on the decree is scheduled for Aug. 30, at 10:30 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Justice outlined reforms after an investigation of the city’s police force. Madigan said she decided to file the lawsuit after the Trump administration announced that it won’t seek consent decrees against police departments.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Madigan announced the draft consent decree on Chicago police reform in July after months of negotiations and meetings with law enforcement, community roundtables, and focus groups.

The decree recommends measures to eliminate bias, teach de-escalation, expand community policing, and make sure misconduct complaints receive thorough review and investigation.

“For decades, efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department have failed, resulting in a profound lack of trust between the police and the communities they serve,” Madigan said in a July statement. “The consent decree will mandate reforms to ensure constitutional policing and, ultimately, make Chicago safer for residents and police officers.”

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