Mar 28, 2023 - News

New report says Chicago police training is fundamentally flawed

Photo of police car on street

Chicago police car downtown on Oct. 19, 2022. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A new study says Chicago police officer training is inadequate and is standing in the way of changing the CPD's "problematic culture."

Why it matters: Violent crime is surging in Chicago, while other major cities like Los Angeles have seen some crime rates drop after enacting police reforms.

  • Plus: Chicago has poured millions of dollars into police training, including CPD's new $128 million training facility, which opened on the West Side this year. Critics protested the facility's price tag.

Driving the news: The new report, authored by the city's community member-led working group on use of force, documents fundamental flaws in the way Chicago officers are trained on new use-of-force policies.

Context: CPD has been slow to make changes after the feds mandated reforms under the 2018 consent decree.

  • In 2020, the city and police department revised their use-of-force policies and required officers to take part in a daylong training on the reforms.
  • That same year, the working group was formed to monitor CPD as part of the consent decree.

Yes, but: The department ignored most of the working group's recommendations on how to revise its existing policy.

Zoom in: The working group argues in its new report that CPD's existing training undermines policy changes by:

  • Teaching officers that their lives are worth more than the lives of community members.
  • Reinforcing an "us against them" mentality that teaches officers to see community members as a potential threat.
  • Showing officers how to justify and even cover up police brutality.

Of note: The working group also reported that some officers would fall asleep during the training and that many were being trained after having worked the night before.

What they're saying: "The training supports the very same culture that has gotten the department in trouble in the first place," University of Chicago law professor and study co-author Craig Futterman tells Axios.

  • "It's the same culture that has protected the department's pattern and practices that have led to civil rights violations."

Between the lines: Public safety and policing have taken center stage in the mayor's race.

  • The police union has suggested that reforms aren't working, which many Chicagoans echo when pointing out their public safety concerns.
  • Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas has said he wants to "reverse the rules that have handcuffed police."

The intrigue: Vallas also supports the department's recent move to recruit retired officers back to the force to fill vacancies. But Futterman is concerned about the move.

  • "If you want to change the culture, you don't bring back folks who nurtured the old culture or left because they weren't down with the program."

CPD did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

What's next: In the coming months the city will hire a new police superintendent, who will be responsible for overseeing reforms within the department.

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