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  •  Raoul: Chicago police accountability task force major step toward systemic change

    Raoul: Chicago police accountability task force major step toward systemic changeCHICAGO — 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.

  • Collins joins protesters at bank over security measures

    Buzz-In DoorwayCHICAGO – State Senator Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, gave the following prepared remarks this morning, joining citizens in protesting at 8140 South Ashland Ave. over security measures they see as obtrusive.

    “As a community, we know it is the prerogative and the duty of Fifth Third Bank to protect its property, its assets, its employees and its customers. At the same time, what I believe we are all here to point out is that security measures such as the buzz-in doors and conspicuous metal detectors ultimately do little to deter bad actors while they simultaneous foster an environment that tells customers they are not trusted. Further, as these measures are not in force at other branches in neighborhoods with smaller minority communities, it sends a message of prejudice.

  • Harmon law allows Cook County drug field tests

    harmon pawnshopSPRINGFIELD – In 2010, Cook County released more than 5,000 defendants accused of drug-related crimes after determining there was no probable cause for their arrests. Many had been sitting in Cook County jail for more than 25 days awaiting their probable cause hearing. Each day these men and women sat in jail cost county taxpayers $143 – or more than $3,000 for a 25-day stay. It cost them and their families even more from lost time at work and the anguish of having a loved one in jail. Many of these offenders came from low-income families that could not afford to post bail.

    Why? Because law enforcement agencies in Cook County send recovered substances to the State Crime Lab to determine whether they are in fact drugs, which takes weeks. Police in every other county use a simple field drug test that costs little more than $1, which could have dramatically reduced the cost to Cook County and the suffering of these people and their families.

    The plan championed by Harmon creates a pilot program in Chicago to perform field drug tests for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. If it is successful, the field testing program could be expanded to the whole county. Establishing field drug testing in Cook County could also reduce pressure on the state crime lab, which currently analyzes all suspected drugs from the state’s most populous area.

    “Cook County deserves the opportunity to save taxpayer money and reduce prison crowding,” said State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “This program works in every other county in Illinois. I have high hopes that it will work here, cutting costs and reducing unnecessary jail time.”

    The legislation is House Bill 356. It takes effect immediately.

  • Harris renews request of U.S. Attorney General to extend current probe to CPD Homan Square Facility

    harris homansq cpdIllinois State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) welcomed news that the US. Attorney General will investigate issues of force and accountability within the Chicago Police Department. Harris has urged federal officials to broaden the scope by extending the investigation to the Homan Square detention facility.

    Various media outlets have reported these practices as well as one confirmed death within the Homan Facility. Earlier this year CPD confirmed that no cameras or fingerprinting resources are equipped within the facility. CPD has used this facility as "an interrogation site" dating back 15 years.

  • Hunter: If we continue to kill each other, who will uphold our legacies?

    hunter 071816SPRINGFIELD – At least 17 people were killed and 41 others wounded, including four teenagers, an eighth-grade student and twin 17-year-old boys, making it Chicago’s deadliest weekend of the year. State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) released the following statement:

    “Our communities are in pain and instead of uniting together, we find ourselves battling one another for survival. But if we continue to kill each other, who will uphold our legacies? It is disheartening to watch communities suffer at the hand of gun violence.

  • Illinois Senate President Applauds Mayor Emanuel’s Leadership on City Finances

    Illinois Senate President Applauds Mayor Emanuel’s Leadership on City FinancesCHICAGO – Senate President John J. Cullerton released the following statement regarding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016 budget address.

    “I join Mayor Emanuel in his efforts to both celebrate and protect our world-class city. We simply cannot ignore the painful reality that the city’s looming pension debt is threatening the financial stability of Chicago.  In the coming days, city and state leaders will be calling on Chicagoans to accept the challenges and financial obligations that come with maintaining the progress of the city that is the economic engine of Illinois.

  • Raoul on McDonald shooting video: Don’t be destructive, but don’t be calm

    raoul DRCHICAGO — 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.

  • Sen. Hunter calls for termination of Officer Jason Van Dyke

    hunter guardianshipCHICAGO – In response to news reports about the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teen, Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago, 3) released the following statement:

    “Too many families, including my own, have been touched by violence in Chicago. As we turn to the police for help, yet again we are faced with disappointment. I’m calling on Superintendent Garry McCarthy to terminate Officer Jason Van Dyke immediately to prove this horrific circumstance is not symbolic of the Chicago Police Department’s ethics.”

  • Sen. Hunter to introduce crisis intervention training legislation

    Sen. Hunter to introduce crisis intervention training legislationCHICAGO – In the wake of the latest police shooting in Chicago, Sen. Mattie Hunter is calling for legislation to require Chicago’s police department to increase crisis intervention training and availability and use of non-lethal devises, such as Tasers.

    “Every police car should be equipped with a Taser or similar, non-lethal device.  We are seeing tragic incidents of people shot and killed when no one’s life is at risk. Lethal force should be a last resort, not a first response. In this day and age, alternative resources and technology exist that should be utilized,” said Hunter.

    In addition to expanded availability of non-lethal devices, Hunter wants additional crisis intervention training for officers and dispatchers so responding officers are better prepared for handling situations involving domestic violence and people with mental health issues.

    Hunter said the proposals would build off the reforms that the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus supported that take effect Jan. 1. Senate Bill 1304 sets official parameters for the use of police body cameras, increases training and reporting requirements for officers and clarifies the public’s right to access the videos.

    Other key policing reforms from the Capitol this year include:

    • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds
    • Requiring independent investigations when officers kill someone
    • Increased training requirements concerning the proper use of force and how to interact with victims with disabilities
    • Creating a statewide database of officers dismissed due to misconduct
  • Senate approves Chicago Public Schools elected school board measure

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  • Senate Democrats make social justice reform and criminal justice reform top priority

    Senate Democrats make social justice reform and criminal justice reform top priorityThousands of police body cameras will hit the streets in the new year under major reforms sponsored by Senate Democrats in an effort to increase public accountability and confidence in the wake of scandals and unrest.

    The new law, Senate Bill 1304, takes effect Jan. 1 and sets the official parameters for the use of police body cameras, increases training and reporting requirements for officers and clarifies the public’s right to access the videos. It is one of several key criminal and social justice reforms enacted by Senate Democrats in 2015, covering everything from protecting students’ educational rights to common-sense consumer laws aiding women trying to escape domestic violence.

    “We’ve made great strides this year in defending the public’s right to be properly protected, with justice for all,” said State Senator Kwame Raoul, a Hyde Park Democrat who emerged as one of the state’s leading reform advocates.

  • Van Pelt meets with UIC students on MAP grant, higher ed funding

    pvp hied mapSPRINGFIELD — Today, State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) met with students from the University of Illinois-Chicago, who were participating in Illinois Public University Student Lobby Day. Senator Van Pelt and students discussed various higher education funding issues.

    Senator Van Pelt, earlier this summer, was one of 37 Senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 2043, appropriating $373 million in general revenue funds for MAP grants. The bill is currently in House Rules Committee.

    “MAP grant funding is absolutely essential for students throughout state, who may not be able to fully fund their education,” Senator Van Pelt said. “I have and will continue to support MAP grant funding, as well as other alternatives to assist with funding, such as The American Opportunity Tax Credit and The Lifetime Learning Credit.”

    Earlier this year, Senator Van Pelt joined US Congressman Danny K. Davis (D) in encouraging current and future students to look into a variety of tax break options available to ease the financial burden of higher education. Together they launched #TaxBreaks4Students campaign, designed to highlight the programs available to those paying for higher education.