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Human Rights, Race, and Torture in Chicago

With Chicago taxpayers now expected to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits stemming from police torture — in which no perpetrators have been prosecuted, and ringleader Jon Burge continues to collect his city pension — a new report on racial discrimination and human rights in Chicago has harsh words on criminal justice.

“Chicago’s criminal justice system continues to plague efforts to secure respect for fundamental human rights in Chicago,” according to the report.

”Long-observed patterns of police abuse continue unabated and lack of accountability within police structures have led to widespread distrust of the justice system in minority communities. Sharp disparities in service and inadequate efforts to establish better community relations reinforce the distressing reality of unequal treatment.”

A coalition of over 30 community and civic organizations sponsored the report, which will be submitted to the U.N. committee overseeing the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which meets in February in Geneva. Along with criminal justice it covers issues of poverty, housing, health, education, and transportation.

The report was presented to the mayor on Monday, December 10, with a letter requesting that he join in an effort to set citywide human rights standards, similar to initiatives in San Francisco and New York City. A follow-up meeting is being sought, said Brian Gladstein of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.
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The report notes that between 2001 and 2005, the city paid nearly $100 million to settle 864 lawsuits alleging police abuse, yet the Chicago Police Department fails to monitor and discipline officers repeatedly accused of misconduct and brutality.

In the Burge case, “despite solid evidence of police torture” none of the perpetrators has been prosecuted. “Impunity is allowed to prevail” as law enforcement agencies “have failed to pursue legal accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses.”

The report also notes a “two-tiered system of police services,” with 911 response times far higher on the South and West Sides; and a CAPS program that “has failed to provide effective community involvement for all of Chicago’s communities of color.”

On other issues, the report gives detailed accounts of the effect of racial discrimination across the spectrum, from TANF to the CHA’s Plan for Transformation to CPS’s Renaissance 2010.

Racial Profiling and Effective Policing

On Thursday, Jane Addams Hull House will sponsor a forum on Police Intervention with Communities of Color: Profiling, Contact, and Force (December 13 at 10 a.m. at the group’s Sargent Center, 1030 W. Van Buren).

Featured will be University of Toledo law professor David Harris, a nationwide expert on racial profiling. His 2002 book, “Profiles in Injustice,” details the growth of racial profiling as a strategy and shows how it is ineffective. His 2005 book, “Good Cops,” uses stories of successful preventive policing from across the country to argue that preventive strategies protect civil liberties and are more effective at keeping communities safe.

Harris will speak along with Clyde Murphy of the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Reservations are requested; call 312-235-5391 or email advocacy@hullhouse.org.

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Category: human rights, police, race, torture

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