CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge partially lifted a stay Thursday in a case brought by Illinois aiming to prevent police discrimination and brutality in Chicago, allowing the state and city to litigate the specific issue of whether officers should be required to record every time they point a gun at someone.
Last year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint asking 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.
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.
U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. granted a stay soon after the complaint was filed so the parties could work together towards a settlement.
The one issue the state and city cannot agree on is whether CPD officers should have to record each time they point a firearm at someone, and Illinois filed a motion Wednesday asking that the stay be partially lifted so they can litigate that point.
Judge Dow granted that motion Thursday morning, allowing the parties to handle that issue in court while the rest of the consent decree moves toward final approval.
The CPD police union had asked to intervene in the lawsuit, but Judge Dow denied that request two weeks ago.
An attorney for the state said in court Thursday morning that they were reviewing about 1,700 comments from Chicago residents and community groups about a draft of the consent decree.
Judge Dow said he will not place a limit on written public comments.
“I’m happy to read them,” he added. “This is an important case.”
Two days in October have been set aside to hear public comments in the courtroom on the record. The judge noted that he wants to make sure everyone who wants to speak will have a chance to do so.
“I anticipate that will be very helpful to all of us,” Dow said.
CPD is notorious for its use of discriminatory policing and excessive force towards the city’s black and Hispanic residents. AG Madigan said several high-profile incidents sparked the case, which she hopes will provide accountability to the department and support for its officers.
According to Madigan’s complaint, about 74 percent of people shot by CPD officers from 2007 through 2015 were black, although they make up only a third of Chicago’s population.
A scathing report released by the U.S. Department of Justice last January detailed the lack of training and improper tactics used by officers, including shooting suspects when it was not necessary and resorting to violence instead of other methods.
Such incidents have eroded the public’s trust in the department, the report said, coming to a head with the 2015 release of a video showing Officer Van Dyke shooting black teenager McDonald.
Van Dyke faces murder charges stemming from the shooting. His trial begins next week.
Public hearings for the consent decree will be held on Oct. 24 and 25, and the finished draft will be released before then.