Feb 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Watchdog report criticizes Chicago Police Department's response to BLM protests

Protesters clash with police in Chicago , on May 30, 2020 (Photo by Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Protesters clash with police Chicago police on May 30, 2020. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Chicago's government watchdog released a new report sharply criticizing the city's police department for how it handled the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The 152-page report from the Chicago Office of Inspector General describes a department in chaos, incidents of violence from officers that went unpunished, and concludes that a lack of preparedness and leadership will leave the department and the city to deal "with the negative repercussions" well into the future.

  • “The events of May and June 2020 may have set CPD and the City back significantly in their long-running, deeply challenged effort to foster trust with members of the community,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg in a statement.

Details: The report, which covers events from May 29 through June 7, found leadership and communication gaps within the department.

  • There was an equipment shortage, leaving many officers without radios, body cameras and large vehicles.
  • Many officers reportedly obscured their badge numbers and other identifying information for fear of being targeted on social media.
  • There was no incident action plan, the report says, and leadership “did not outline or communicate specific expectations,” which led officers “to self-direct." Officers had also not received mass arrest training “in years,” which contributed to the violence.
  • The report also found underreported uses of baton strikes, yet many officers will go unpunished since the department “has scant records of which officers were working and where for large parts of its response to the protests.”

State of play: Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has been criticized by activist groups and some city council members since taking office in 2019 for failing to create a civilian oversight council of the police department.

  • In a statement, Lightfoot said the protests “challenged our resources and dramatically impacted the response.” She added, “there were a number of lessons learned and opportunities for improvement that were put into place over the course of the summer and fall."
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