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Crime-plagued Chicago reaches agreement on police reform

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By Agence France-Presse

The city of Chicago, struggling with a gun violence epidemic and mistrust between police and civilians, reached a far-reaching agreement Thursday to reform its beleaguered police department.

The agreement spells out hundreds of reform goals aimed at improving policing in the third most populous US city, where 386 people have been murdered this year.

The Chicago Police Department has been marred by decades of documented abuses, and has struggled to gain the trust of communities where gang violence is claiming more lives than anywhere else in the country — more than 650 in 2017.

The agreement was reached as jury selection is underway in the murder trial of a white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, accused of gunning down a black teenager in 2014.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal a “historic inflection point,” coming two years after he fired the previous police chief over the Van Dyke case.

The decree “creates an enforceable, durable and sustainable framework for systemic changes,” said Emanuel, the one-time chief of staff for president Barack Obama.

– 16 shots –
Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, even after the teen collapsed to the ground.

Police video of the shooting generated months of protests. It seemed to contradict officers’ claims that the teen was a physical threat, as he appears to be walking away from officers.

The case led to a civil rights investigation conducted by Obama’s Department of Justice, which found a pattern of Chicago police abuses and rights violations, and recommended a host of reforms.

The consent decree deal struck between mayor Emanuel, police chief Eddie Johnson, and the state’s top law enforcement official follows those recommendations and adds additional goals, officials said.

“It has taken our city a generation to get here,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

“The resulting lack of trust between the public and the police is untenable.”

Among the hundreds of decree requirements, the police department will improve officer training by teaching de-escalation techniques and strategies for dealing with calls in which mental health is an issue.

It also includes enhanced oversight of police officers and their use of force.

Normally, the federal government would establish the consent decree, but the administration of Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, dropped those efforts.

With political pressure mounting, city and state officials stepped in to forge their own agreement.

The deal still needs the approval of a federal judge who will monitor the city’s progress.