Top cop’s public commitment to transparency could lead to long sought Chicago Police reforms

Newly appointed Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling’s public commitment to transparency could be the key to achieving so far "unfulfilled reforms" within the department, a court-appointed monitor said in her team’s latest report released Wednesday.

The Independent Monitoring Team posted its eighth biannual report and the first part of a comprehensive assessment detailing the police department’s progress in meeting reform requirements during the first six months of the year.

It it is the first such report since Mayor Brandon Johnson appointed Snelling to lead the department in August. The report referenced a vow Snelling made in a media interview to be open and transparent in explaining policing to the public, remarks that mirrored promises he made in the news conference announcing his appointment.

"We congratulate Superintendent Larry Snelling on his recent appointment and his public commitments to transparency in policing," wrote Monitor Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor.

"It is our hope that his commitment to transparency will be reflected in the Chicago Police Department’s immediate efforts to address unfulfilled reforms and achieve the outcomes intended by the Consent Decree."

At the end of the eighth reporting period, which covers Jan. 1 through June 30, 2023, the Chicago Police Department had reached some level of compliance in about 80% of the decree’s mandated changes but was in full compliance in just 6%, according to the report.

"Superintendent Snelling has the opportunity to address challenges that have disproportionately delayed progress across the Consent Decree," Hickey wrote.

"It is our hope that Superintendent Snelling will push the CPD to quickly develop transparent plans to demonstrate respectful, collaborative, effective, and constitutional policing."

Hickey is leading a team of experts advising and tracking Chicago Police Department’s reform efforts under the federal consent decree signed in 2019. In her latest report, Hickey said the department needs to develop transparent plans to address community policing and engagement, staffing issues and data collection.

While CPD has made some improvements to address officer wellness and community policing, the eighth report period saw high levels of certain violent crimes, attrition of officers and other personnel that led to staffing issues and the loss of officers to suicide.

"The City and the CPD are called to address ongoing, new, and evolving challenges such as violent crime, the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and the crisis involving unhoused new arrivals. Based on our experience with the CPD’s new leadership so far, we expect that the CPD will incorporate its reform efforts to manage these challenges," Hickey wrote.

The consent decree settled a lawsuit over widespread abuses of civil rights identified by a U.S. Justice Department probe following the public outrage over video of an officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. It identified nearly 600 areas of reform.

Hickey wrote the team will continue to gather public input for the second part of the comprehensive assessment, which will include recommending changes to efficiently reach the outcomes intended by the consent decree.

"Part I of the Comprehensive Assessment shows that the CPD has more work to do to demonstrate to Chicago’s communities that the CPD ensures constitutional and effective law enforcement. We continue to welcome input from community members on potential changes to the Consent Decree," Hickey wrote.