CHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the dismissal of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and the City of Chicago’s appointment of a task force on police accountability:
Yesterday’s announcements represent a positive step out of a dark time in our city. While no individual is solely responsible for the crisis of public confidence that has converged on the murder of Laquan McDonald and the culture of inaction and obfuscation that hid it from public view for more than a year, Superintendent McCarthy’s departure is a necessary step. It sends a signal of seriousness. But just as replacing a head coach does not automatically correct deeper weaknesses within a team, new leadership will not necessarily bring about the systemic change desperately needed in Chicago’s law enforcement and criminal justice apparatus.
That’s why I’m encouraged by the appointment of a police accountability task force made up of individuals with the integrity and experience to move beyond platitudes to real reform.
The choice of Deval Patrick, who was raised on the South Side, headed the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and served two terms as governor of Massachusetts, to advise the task force is a wise one. I’m optimistic that he will bring to the endeavor outside eyes but also a deep love for this city.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson, former State Police director Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, University of Chicago law professor and former Cook County public defender Randolph Stone and former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta will round out the group, lending valuable experience and insight to the critical task of restoring public trust in the police. To move that process forward, they must determine patterns and practices that need to be overhauled. And our city’s leadership must exercise the will to follow their counsel.
I also stand behind Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s decision to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to undertake a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Rep. Elgie Sims and I met with her yesterday prior to her announcement, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on statewide policy solutions that build on the landmark law enforcement reform legislation Rep. Sims and I passed this year. The road ahead is long, but the journey has begun.
With so much attention drawn to the state’s ongoing budget impasse, historic accomplishments are too often overlooked.
This year, lawmakers in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle did find compromise on a number of issues to improve the lives of Illinoisans and the safety, health and economic future of our state.
Springfield’s NPR radio station, WUIS, covers developments at the Capitol. Recently, the station published an article looking past the friction to find positive achievements during the 2015 legislative session. Their story includes an interview with Charlie Wheeler, director of UIS’ Public Affairs Reporting program, and Jamey Dunn, Editor of Illinois Issues. Their analysis focused on achievements in criminal justice, including Senate Bill 1304, a comprehensive law enforcement package expected to be a model for reform across the US.
Senate resolution draws attention to plight of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in D.R.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) introduced a resolution, which the Illinois Senate adopted today, calling on the U.S. government to use sanctions and/or other penalties to pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to end the discriminatory deportation of residents of Haitian descent, many of whom were illegally trafficked into the country to work in its sugarcane fields.
“The Dominican Republic has a shameful history of benefitting economically from the cheap or free labor of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, and in this system that has been described as modern-day slavery, one constant has been the establishment of barriers to legal citizenship, even for those born in the Dominican Republic,” Raoul said. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits nations from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their citizenship, but this is precisely what the Dominican Republic has done, and the United States needs to take a stand for international law and the basic rights of oppressed people.”
In 2010, an amendment to the Dominican Constitution removed its birthright citizenship provision; three years later, the nation’s Constitutional Court applied this amendment retroactively, effectively denationalizing hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent. Subsequently, the government required all migrants and non-citizens to prove that they arrived in the country before October 2011 and either have jobs or are attending school, or else face deportation. By the June 17 deadline, many affected individuals – particularly those who had been brought into the country illegally in the first place – were unable access official documents proving their status. Although the deadline has been extended, an estimated 40,000 persons, fearing sudden deportation, separation from family members and the loss of their belongings, have already left the Dominican Republic for Haiti, where many lack employment and housing and where the sudden population increase is contributing to the lingering humanitarian crisis in that nation.
“More than 200,000 men, women and children are still at risk of deportation, and violence against Dominicans of Haitian descent is escalating,” Raoul said. “I’m proud that the Illinois Senate is taking a stand against the human rights violations that are taking place and urging the United States government to act quickly.”
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) presented legislation establishing an elected Chicago school board in today’s Senate Education Committee.
House Bill 557 passed the House in March with overwhelming bipartisan support. Over the objection of the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Raoul pushed yesterday for the legislation to be heard in committee today.
“The legislation at hand is far too important to not be heard,” Raoul said. “We can all agree that CPS needs reforms and the best way to reach a solution is to continue conversation.”
Parents interested in bringing an elected school board to Chicago had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns this week with State Senator Kwame Raoul, who is sponsoring such a proposal.
Currently, the Chicago board is appointed by the mayor and many residents feel left out of the decision-making process.
Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, is the sponsor of elected school board legislation, House Bill 557, currently pending in the Senate that previously won House approval. As the House passed it, the Chicago school board would consist of 21 members, one of which would be elected at-large.
Court appointee would take over prosecution of officer accused of killing Laquan McDonald
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement this morning:
Today I join with a coalition of community leaders to ask the Cook County Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to take over prosecution of the Chicago police officer accused of killing Laquan McDonald. This appointee would also be tasked with investigating the possibility that the circumstances of the 17-year-old’s death were misrepresented, covered up and hidden from the public.
CHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement as the public awaits the court-ordered release of a video recording of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Department Officer Jason Van Dyke:
When I learned that a video of Laquan McDonald’s final moments was to be released to the public, I knew that many would fear its impact, remembering the self-destruction oppressed communities elsewhere have experienced following acts of police brutality and excessive force.
I believe we can do better in Chicago. But I am not calling for calm. There’s nothing to be calm about. Instead, I’m calling for sustained, focused, constructive outrage that demands full accountability but doesn’t destroy community.
Because of legislation I advanced earlier this year, we now have legal protocols in place that mandate independent investigations of police-involved deaths, expose the misdeeds of rogue cops so they don’t quietly move from one department to another, require improved officer training on bias and the use of force and establish funding and protocols for the use of body cameras.
But I know it’s not enough.
Everyone responsible in this atrocity – not only Officer Van Dyke, but any individual who participated in a cover-up that delayed justice for Laquan McDonald and his family – must be held accountable. We should direct our outrage toward asking our local prosecutor whether it would have taken 13 months to resolve this case if the video had shown a civilian committing the same act. We should ask why Office Van Dyke was still on the beat after 17 public complaints were filed against him and the City paid half a million dollars to settle allegations that he had used excessive force. We should question the ability of Chicago’s independent police review authority, which has recent come under scrutiny from the Better Government Association, to do its job with integrity. And as we call on our neighbors to abandon the no-snitch code, in our outrage we demand the same of law enforcement.
Watch the video. Don’t be destructive. But don’t be calm.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) announced today that he is sponsoring a plan to bring the Chicago Public Schools into line with every other district in Illinois by making its school board a democratically elected body. He will hold hearings in Chicago to gather input from parents and other community members to ensure fair representation in the transition to elections, which will first be held in 2018 if the measure becomes law.
“Chicago’s children deserve nothing less than full equality with the rest of the state – parity in funding and in democratic governance of their school district,” Raoul said. “It’s time to get this right, and I look forward to working with our parents and advocates to give CPS the government our schools so desperately need.”
Request federal probe into IPRA, Office of Cook County State’s Attorney
CHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and the other 31 members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus called today for an expanded investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into not only the Chicago Police Department, but the Independent Police Review Authority and the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the ILBC expressed support for this morning’s announcement that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is initiating a patterns and practices investigation into the CPD but asked the federal agency to press farther by examining the entire apparatus through which allegations of police misconduct are addressed in Chicago.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement in response to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s announcement today that the State of Illinois will skip its required November pension payment of $560 million:
Illinois’ sorry history of skipping payments to its pension systems has made its unfunded pension liability the highest in the country. The state has used its pension funds like credit cards to fund essential services because of a persistent unwillingness to face the fact that revenue isn’t keeping pace with the needs of its people.
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reminded Illinoisans that the start of the new year will bring sweeping, positive changes to the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system accomplish their vital work. On Jan. 1, 2016, several landmark justice measures, including long-awaited standards for the use of police body cameras, will take effect.
“For far too long, our criminal justice system has reinforced racial disparities and provided poor outcomes for taxpayers, ex-offenders, families and communities alike,” Raoul said. “We are finally seeing a bipartisan movement to examine and, when necessary, overhaul law enforcement, sentencing and corrections practices so they’re fair and they work.”
Raoul sponsored and secured passage of a major policing reform measure in May. Changes in the law that take effect in the new year include
On Jan. 31, 2016, a task force assembled under the new law is scheduled to submit its recommendations on licensing police officers in Illinois for added accountability.
Raoul, who serves on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, also sponsored two important juvenile justice laws that will take effect Jan. 1.
One will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts and give judges greater discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Another will prevent juveniles from being committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses. It also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense.
“Whether it’s a young African-American man encountering a police officer on the street, a mother concerned about her children’s safety on the walk to school or an ex-offender trying to turn his life around and support his family, we are working hard to achieve the American dream of equal access to safety, security and justice,” Raoul said. “As the Commission continues its task and as both lawmakers and the public become more aware of the disparities and shortcomings in our criminal justice system, I’m confident we’ll see additional policies enacted to supplement the major reforms poised to take effect.”
SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13) released the following statement on the Senate’s vote on parts of the grand bargain budget deal:
"I am disappointed that Senate Republicans refused today to support elements of the grand bargain budget deal – parts that they requested and have supported in the past. During the debate, many Republican senators referred to these pieces of legislation as “easy,” and yet they failed to vote for them. If they are not willing to act on the low-hanging fruit of this overall negotiation, they are clearly not motivated to deal with the unprecedented and unacceptable budget impasse.
"I do believe many of my Republican colleagues wanted to vote in favor of these measures, but they were undermined by the governor’s office and members of the far right, who are sabotaging work towards a compromise that will allow us to create the stability our state needs."
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