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Report paints ‘bleak picture’ of perceptions of Chicago police among young Black and Latino men

Though the Chicago Police Department is years into efforts to reform and rebuild trust among communities, young Black and Latino men persist in having negative perceptions of and interactions with Chicago police officers, according to a special report from an independent panel reviewing the department.

The findings of surveys of men aged 18 to 35 paint a “bleak picture of the relationship” between the department and the men, the report said.

The report filed in federal court on Thursday is meant to gauge CPD’s reputation in the community while it works to come into compliance with a federal consent decree ordered in 2019 in the wake of the killing of Laquan McDonald by former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke.

The independent monitoring team that is measuring the department’s reform work periodically surveys the community to gauge how the department is doing. The team, led by former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey, does a broad community survey every two years, but also seeks to do more focused studies on smaller population groups in between.

The men were surveyed between December 2020 and June 2021 in a total of 32 community focus groups by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Adler University.

The report builds on findings from the independent monitoring team’s first citywide, representative survey from November 2019 and February 2020 and also complements the team’s 2020 community survey, which found that young Black and Latino men in Chicago say they have the most contact with and most negative perception of police, according to a news release Thursday.

Participants in the most recent survey reported most of their interactions with police were negative experiences, even when no enforcement actions were taken, and they lacked trust in their local police department.

“We have consistently heard that young Black and Latino men want to be treated with dignity and respect; to be given a chance to be heard during encounters; and for officers to make decisions fairly and transparently, conveying goodwill and trustworthiness,” Chicago police Independent Monitor Hickey said in the news release.

Recurring feedback from the participants on their perception of the police included keywords like “unreliable,” “disrespectful,” “corrupt,” “aggressive” and “racist,” the report said.

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Some participants suggested ways Chicago police could improve relations with Black and Latino communities, like better training, more internal reform and accountability and “increased quality and quantity of non-enforcement or social engagement with communities,” the independent monitoring team said in the news release.

A statement emailed to the Tribune on Thursday night from Chicago police chief communications officer Don Terry said, “CPD welcomes the opportunity to learn from the communities we serve. As we move forward in our reform efforts, we will continue working side by side with the members of our communities to grow and strengthen trust across Chicago.”

The report also mentioned participants’ “overarching perception” that officers in mostly white neighborhoods treat Black and Latino Chicagoans differently than white Chicagoans in those same neighborhoods.

The report comes weeks after Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown fired the head of the office responsible for implementing reforms, thrusting the department into a transitory moment while it brings on new leadership.

Overall, the department has made some progress in implementing reforms, reaching some compliance with more than 70% of the provisions. Still, it has also faced criticism that it lacks the political will to make deep cultural changes necessary for reform to take hold.

The independent monitoring team is in the process of conducting another survey, findings of which will be out later this year, the report said.

“As the city and CPD continue their compliance efforts, it is our hope that the CPD considers the serious issues, concerns and recommendations raised by the focus group participants,” the team said in the report.

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