CHICAGO (AP) — Police in Chicago have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color” and have alienated blacks and Hispanics for decades by using excessive force and honoring a code of silence, a task force declared Wednesday in a report that seeks sweeping changes to the nation’s third-largest police force.
The panel, established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year in response to an outcry over police shootings, found that the department does little to target problem officers and that routine encounters unnecessarily turn deadly.
The group cited data that show 74 percent of the hundreds of people shot by officers in recent years were African-Americans, even though blacks account for 33 percent of the city’s population.
Among other problems: Last year, only six out of every 1,000 people arrested had an attorney at any point while in police custody.
“Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again,” the report said.
The report “shines a light into the darkness,” activist Greg Livingston said.
The city’s new police chief said the department welcomed “a fresh set of eyes” but was not waiting for recommendations from the task force or from a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department before making changes. Eddie Johnson, an African-American with 27 years on the force, was Emanuel’s choice for the job. The City Council confirmed the appointment Wednesday in a 50-0 vote.
“We have racism in America. We have racism in Chicago. So it stands to reason we would have some racism within our agency. My goal is to root that out,” Johnson told reporters.
The task force report was released just two days after the fatal shooting of a black 16-year-old. Police say he was armed, though his mother says he did not have a gun.
“There’s no doubt we have a lot of work to do,” the mayor said. He declined to talk about specifics in the report, saying he had not been briefed by the task force.
Associated Press writers Herbert G. McCann and Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.
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