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 		 [The police consent decree fails to make amends to
African-American young people, who are both most harmed by the
department and a driving force in a city on the cusp of a historic
change in leadership.] [https://portside.org/] 

 CHICAGO’S MORAL DEBT TO BLACK YOUTH  
[https://portside.org/node/19544] 

 

 David J. Knight 
 March 8, 2019
Chicago Reporter
[https://www.chicagoreporter.com/chicagos-moral-debt-to-black-youth/] 

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 _ The police consent decree fails to make amends to African-American
young people, who are both most harmed by the department and a driving
force in a city on the cusp of a historic change in leadership. _ 

 , Sophia Nahli Allison 

 

Chicago made history last week. Two African-American women are now
advancing to a runoff election that will decide who will be
Chicago’s next mayor. This is not the only watershed, however. It
also coincides with a potential turning point in the city’s
treatment of longstanding issues of race, policing, and criminal
justice.

Both mayoral candidates—Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor
who chaired Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force
[https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/13/us/Police-accountability-report.html],
and Toni Preckwinkle, current chair of Cook County’s Board of
Commissioners and Democratic Party—have taken strong stances that
acknowledge systemic racism in the Chicago Police Department. Both
have also called for greater police reform and accountability.

Chicago’s recently approved consent decree
[http://chicagopoliceconsentdecree.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Illinois-v.-Chicago-Final-Consent-Decree-with-signatures.pdf] reflects
this shift in the city’s policing policy. 

It must be recognized, however, that many of the most compelling
reforms proposed in that agreement—among them, reporting
requirements for every time an officer points a gun at someone, and
guidelines for how police should interact with people with
disabilities
[https://www.chicagoreporter.com/for-people-with-disabilities-chicago-police-consent-decree-is-just-a-first-step-toward-reform/] and
LGBTQI individuals—exist because those most affected protested and
litigated to have them included.

Today, the necessity for collective struggle continues. The consent
decree alone does not go far enough, particularly on issues of
reparation. 

For instance, a coalition of city activist and community groups
[https://cpdclassaction.com/cccd] publicly noted that while the
reform plan includes a number of important counseling service
provisions for police officers who have experienced trauma, no such
services are outlined for civilians impacted by police violence.

In a sense, the reality that Chicago will name a African-American
woman as its next mayor contradicts another reality: the city’s
disregard for young black lives.

But the city’s neglect of wrongdoing reverberates far beyond that.
Daily, systemic racism in Chicago’s police department has imperiled
the health and life outcomes of specific groups—notably
African-American young people. This is a population all but invisible
in the consent decree and to whom the city has made no amends. 

Data [http://apps.chicagotribune.com/cpd-shootings-database/] from
the Chicago Tribune shows that about 60 percent of those shot by
police between 2010 and 2015 were black young people between the ages
of  12 and 30. In fact, young adult-aged black women and men are 10
and 14 times more likely
[https://theintercept.com/2018/08/16/chicago-police-misconduct-racial-disparity/] to
experience police uses of force compared to their white peers
according to the Citizens Police Data Project.

And just in the year 2014, about 40 percent of adults stopped and
questioned [https://lucyparsonslabs.com/posts/stop-and-frisk/] and 40
percent of those arrested by police were black young adults between
the ages of 18 and 30—totaling more than 241,000 police stops and
43,000 arrests.

These data reveal a simple truth: Chicago’s young black population
is perhaps the most affected demographic when it comes to policing.
Yet there is no clear articulation of how to remedy this injustice,
even as thousands upon thousands of black young adults are
criminalized and locked out of gainful employment and government
benefits every year due to the unequal application of felony
convictions. (For instance, among Cook County juveniles arrested on
drug offenses in 2011, about half of black youth
[https://jjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/DMC1.pdf] were charged with
a felony compared to fewer than 10 percent of their white peers.)

Chicago’s consent decree, by its very nature, is silent about
the staggering harms
[https://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/macarthur/projects/police/documents/Campbell%20v%20City%20of%20Chicago%20Class%20Action%20Complaint%20FINAL.pdf] done
to this young population. Rather, the agreement leans heavily on
community policing efforts that, according to the activist
organization We Charge Genocide [http://wechargegenocide.org/],
mobilize “self-selecting” groups of residents to surveil often
black and brown young people in their communities.

What’s at stake in Chicago and across the country with respect to
police reform is therefore not only a matter of criminal justice.
It’s a matter of social and economic justice for present and future
generations of black people—one that will require greater moral and
political will from both the public and the new city leadership.

In a sense, the reality that Chicago will name a African-American
woman as its next mayor contradicts another reality: the city’s
disregard for young black lives. 

But at the same time, the new direction in Chicago’s mayoral race
also presents a political opportunity to name and transform this
reality. 

Today, there exists another case for reparations
[https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/] in
Chicago. The city owes a moral debt specifically to generations of
young black people: a debt Chicago’s city government has yet to
address, much less fully acknowledge. But also a debt that reaches far
beyond unjust policing to widespread unemployment
[https://www.chicagotribune.com/ct-youth-unemployment-urban-league-0126-biz-20160124-story.html]and
massive disparate impacts in school closures
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/06/chicago-public-schools-closures-racism-ghosts-in-the-schoolyard-extract] and public
housing displacement
[https://www.thecha.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/4_14_11_report_final_appendices_1.pdf]. 

On its own, Chicago’s consent decree does little to make amends to
young black people who have been robbed of life and opportunity at the
hands of police. It cannot be the policy on which people place their
hopes and expectations. Instead, all of us—the incoming mayor
included—would do well to understand the decree as one outcome of a
social movement pushing for full public acknowledgement and
accountability with regard to unjust policing. When we center the
circumstances of young black people in the city, we witness the
unfinished business of that movement. 

_David J. Knight is completing his PhD in political science at the
University of Chicago, where he focuses on issues of race and justice
in the lives of young African Americans. He lives in Chicago and works
closely with the Invisible Institute._

_Founded on the heels of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, The
Chicago Reporter confronts racial and economic inequality, using the
power of investigative journalism. Our mission is national but
grounded in Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the nation
and a bellwether for urban policies._

_Keep up with The Chicago Reporter. Sign up for our
eNewsletter. Subscribe [http://www.chicagoreporter.com/signup/]_

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