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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.

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.

Raoul calls for pressure on Dominican Republic to end deportations

raoul DRSenate 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.”

Raoul’s juvenile justice reforms become law

raoul 71515SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) applauded the signing today of two pieces of legislation he sponsored to reform the juvenile justice system, limiting the number of young people committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities and adult prisons and the average amount of time they spend there.

“For most juvenile offenders, especially those who have committed non-violent crimes, we see better outcomes and lower rates of recidivism when they are able to live in the community and attend school, rather than being detained in a facility far from home,” Raoul said. “I’m grateful to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her chief of staff, Kim Foxx, for working with me to eliminate the automatic transfer of minors to the adult court system, and to DJJ Director Candace Jones for helping me pass sweeping reforms within the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

House Bill 3718 will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts. It will also limit the number of cases in which “presumptive transfers” will be made, giving judges more discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Finally, the new law enumerates mitigating factors a judge may take into consideration when sentencing a person under 18; these include maturity level, presence of a developmental disability, home environment, history of childhood trauma, prior criminal record and potential for rehabilitation.

When Senate Bill 1560 takes effect, juveniles will no longer be committed to DJJ facilities for misdemeanor offenses. The law also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense and that no minor will be detained in a county jail for committing an act that wouldn’t be illegal if an adult engaged in it. The measure also sets maximum terms of aftercare (the juvenile equivalent of parole) for different types of offenses; currently there is no legal limit on the amount of time DJJ can be made responsible for supervising a young person following release. And it establishes parity by requiring that courts provide DJJ with the same information they provide to the Department of Corrections for adult offenders, to help them more effectively rehabilitate minors in their care.

The two laws will take effect in January of 2016.

Sen. Kwame Raoul

Senator Kwame Raoul

13th District

Years served: 2004 - Present

Committee assignments: Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Judiciary (Chairperson); Public Health; Committee of the Whole; Energy and Public Utilities; Executive; Committee on Restorative Justice (Co-Chairperson).

Biography: Attorney; born September 30, 1964; Bachelor's degree from DePaul University; J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law; has two children.