* From a letter sent by Attorney General Kwame Raoul to members of his staff…
June 4, 2020
I want to apologize for my delay in addressing you about the recent protests and, more importantly, the underlying reason for them. Part of why I delayed was that I needed time to process my own anger and the thoughts that arose from it.
In my journey to become Attorney General, I was advised along the way to control my anger and not to let it inform my words and actions. Some of this advice was helpful, but at other times it failed to acknowledge the reality with which I live.
As an African American male who has had my own negative experiences with law enforcement, I’m angry.
As an African American male who has felt myself to be the subject of profiling for most of my life, I’m angry.
As the father of two black children whose wellbeing I worry about, I’m angry .
I’m angry because even to this day, at this stage in my career, I get nervous when I walk or drive by a police officer. I’m angry because when I walk into a store, I have to go out of my way to demonstrate that I’m there lawfully, to buy and not to steal. I’m angry because when I walk down a sidewalk or get in an elevator, I have to think about how to show I’m not a threat to someone’s purse.
As I reflected on my anger, I found it important to identify the person I’m angriest at - myself. I’m angry at myself because I’ve accepted the burden of making these adjustments in my daily life as an African American man, rather than confronting the reasons for my fear and discomfort.
So I’ve challenged myself and our senior staff to look at the work we do in the Office of the Attorney General with an eye to how we may have tolerated inequities and, as a result, contributed to the circumstances we have all witnessed.
We are having this discussion, born of our outrage over the death of George Floyd, only because a 17-year-old girl had the presence of mind to record the horrific act of a law enforcement officer purporting to be working in the line of duty. This is far from the first time we have risen up in resonse to police conduct caught on tape. I feel good about having led efforts, prior to assuming the role of Attorney General, to set protocols for the use of body-worn cameras and dash cams, and to have clarified that Illinois law allows members of the public to record officers in the performance of their duties. But I’m angry at myself for having accepted pats on the back for such reforms, knowing that most abusive policing is not recorded. Part of the reason I sought the position of Attorney General was to take on the challenge to do more.
We’ve been engaged in the implementation of a consent decree designed to change the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department. We have also recognized that the same communities that suffer disproportionately from law enforcement abuse also experience more heavily the trauma of normalized violence. This is why we’ve enhanced our crime victim services, taking a wider view of who is a victim. At the same time, we are actively reviewing legislation to further reform the way policing is done in this state.
Additionally, I know this time of public health crisis has been stressful for us all. I cannot express to you enough how deeply I appreciate your adjustment to working remotely while handling increased workloads. I also acknowledge that as I have struggled to process my thoughts and emotions concerning recent events and their relation to my lived experiences , so many o f you have felt the direct impact. I encourage you to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program through which you can access free, confidential counseling services. You can reach them at (866) xxx-xxxx, 24/7, 365 days a year.
I also want you to know that I - and this office - stand in support of you.
The pandemic and both its health and economic effects have disproportionately harmed certain communities. Now, we witness livelihoods being destroyed - in many cases by outsiders - at a time when small businesses were already barely clinging to survival and people were just beginning to go back to work. While we have an eye toward assisting neighborhoods affected by this destruction, we will not allow our focus to be pulled away from our responsibility to look in the mirror and promote ethical, responsible and constitutional law enforcement in all areas that we touch .
*** UPDATE *** Press release…
Attorney General Kwame Raoul today issued a statement regarding implementation of a consent decree between the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois that requires the city to implement wide-ranging reforms of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In a status hearing today regarding the consent decree and the CPD’s response to protests taking place throughout Chicago, attorneys from Raoul’s office argued that the city has failed to implement the consent decree in a timely manner.
“My commitment to enforcing the consent decree between the city of Chicago and state of Illinois has never wavered. If anything, the horrific murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two in a long list of black lives lost at the hands of police, have strengthened my resolve to do my part to end pervasive police violence against our black and brown residents.
“We cannot let another day go by where the CPD hides behind a broken accountability system, inexcusably misses dozens of court-ordered deadlines with no plan in place to catch up, and fails to take the necessary steps to remedy the problems outlined in the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2017 report. The city owes the community it serves meaningful reform, not lip service, not Band-Aids, and not politics.
“I am calling on the city to recommit to implementing structural change within the Chicago Police Department, to publicly reject systemic racism, and to truly and transparently commit to gaining the trust of communities of color. I look forward to the independent monitor’s upcoming special report that will give us a more complete picture of how the CPD is responding to the protests that are continuing throughout Chicago. The protests are proof that the residents of Chicago are tired of waiting. I am calling on the city to do the hard work it assured people would be done to end systemic racism and restore accountability.
“I was pleased to hear Mayor Lightfoot’s recent comments acknowledging that implementation of the consent decree has been too slow. After several months of missed deadlines, one would be hard-pressed to disagree.
“The obstacle to implementation has never been the consent decree; rather, it has been the Chicago Police Department’s failure to prioritize the consent decree by committing sufficient resources to implement the court-ordered reforms. The city and the Chicago Police Department must finally take meaningful steps to implement the consent decree with the sense of urgency this moment in time demands. As tens of thousands of Chicagoans raise their voices to mourn and cry out for change, the city’s leadership owes them no less.”
Raoul is urging the city to deliver to the court, the monitor, and the Attorney General’s office a plan detailing when and how it will meet all of the consent decree deadlines missed.
To find more information, visit the Attorney General’s consent decree website.
* Raoul, 17 other AGs ask Congress for power to investigate police misconduct