by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — The city will create a new “Use of Force Working Group” to review the Chicago Police Department’s use of force policies, and recommend changes to top brass.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the group was planned months before the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, and the subsequent protests around the country.

Consisting of more than 20 Chicago residents, students, experts, lawyers, advocates, and elected officials, the panel first met last week, but Brown said “the official business begins this week.”

“This is a space where we begin the difficult work of bringing meaningful change to our department, and our city, and ensure that our policies are a reflection of the communities that we serve,” he said.

Deputy Supt. Barbara West, who oversees the CPD Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, said the working group will meet virtually on a weekly basis over the next eight weeks to review CPD’s existing use of force policies, before submitting recommended changes to the CPD Executive Steering Committee.

“We know the value of these conversations, and we know that appropriate use of force is more than just a policy. When police use force appropriately, it is a way to build trust within the community. A bad incident not only shatters the trust of a department within the city, but it casts a shadow over law enforcement nationwide,” she said. “The concept of sanctity of life and de-escalation serves as the cornerstones of our own use of force policies, and we must never stray away from those core principles.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the working group is the latest step in her efforts to reform CPD ever since then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her head of the Police Accountability Task Force in 2015. That task force found the department is plagued by systematic racism, and recommended sweeping changes, setting the stage for a similar Justice Department report on CPD, which led to a court-ordered consent decree mandating CPD reforms.

“Ultimately, our goal is simple: create better policies and better training for our officers in order to empower them to address situations appropriately, and to prevent incidents stemming from excessive force in the future,” Lightfoot said. “We will only have true public safety when the community is engaged and involved in charting the course for public safety on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.”

The working group will be co-chaired by CPD Area Four Deputy Chief Ernest Cato, and Karen Winters, founder of Justice For Families.

Winters’ nephew, 16-year-old Pierre Loury, was shot and killed by Chicago police in 2016. His family has sued the city, claiming he was running away from police and climbing a fence when he was shot, and was not a threat to officers.

“I’m not a representative of the Police Department, I am a representative of the community, of the people, and those impacted, because I lost someone to police violence here in the city. So my tone may be always different, but one thing I will do is stand in my truth, and be honest about some things,” she said.

Winters said she has been outraged to see many police officers in Chicago allowed to return to duty after using excessive force.

“Other cities are firing them, and here they get 30 days desk duty, and then they return back to the streets in our communities. As far as I’m concerned, psychopaths with guns. So I am infuriated. I’m furious,” she said.

Lightfoot acknowledged that the Chicago Police Department already made comprehensive changes to its use of force policies in 2017, in the wake of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, but she said more needs to be done.

“We will see if those revisions hold the test of time, and this is another opportunity for the community to be involved, and we believe that’s important,” she said.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) is on the Use of Force Working Group. On CBS 2’s “Hour 18” Monday, Irika Sargent asked Taliaferro what he thought was the most problematic area in the current policy and needs to be high priority to change.

“I think one of the areas which we definitely have to look at in this use of force policy is the use of deadly force itself – when it should be applied and when it can be applied. And so I look forward to having those discussions on the working group,” Taliaferro said.

Sargent noted that the working group includes a vast variety of people of different professional backgrounds – including a priest from North Lawndale, representatives of several community groups including Black Lives Matter and Communities United, and a University of Chicago Law School professor. Taliaferro emphasized that the key is bringing about a unified voice.

“That will be our responsibility to have a unified voice in making recommendations to the Chicago Police Department. You know, we are looking at broken fidelity within this system, and that’s the broken trust that Police Department and that community share, and I think this group has a very important mission ahead of itself,” he said.

The task force will also be working to rebuild trust after years of mistrust between the police and Chicago communities.

“It’s going to take time,” Taliaferro said. “But most important, when there’s transparency, accountability, and having a community involved, time will heal, and we will be able to rebuild that trust again.”

While the task force will only offer recommendations that are not mandatory to follow, Taliaferro does believe it has the power to create change.

“We also have the independent monitor that will see these recommendations as well, and we do have a mayor that’s very – for lack of a very term – is very excited about the reform and changes that we’re going to bring to the city of Chicago. With those, and along with a City Council that understands the need for reform, I’m very confident that we can bring a department to this city that its residents can be proud of – one that uses use of force in an appropriate manner at an appropriate time,” he said.

The members of the Use of Force Working Group include:

  • A’Shonti Tiesha McKinney, Crowned Elites LLC
  • Aaron Gottlieb, Jane Addams College of Social Work, UIC
    Amika Tendaji, Ujimaa Medics & Black Lives Matter
  • Arewa Karen Winters, Justice for Families, The 411 Movement for Pierre
    Loury
  • Chris Taliaferro, Alderman of the 29th Ward, Chairman of the Public Safety
    Committee
  • Cleopatra Watson, United Pullman
  • Craig B. Futterman, University of Chicago Law School
  • Waltrina Middleton, Community Renewal Society
  • Eric Wilkins, Communities United
  • Erin Jones, Citizens Organization of Public Safety Standards
  • Ernest Cato III, Chicago Police Department
  • Father Larry Dowling, St. Agatha Parish, North Lawndale, CRS Member
    Church
  • Israel Abdul, resident
  • La’Rie Suttle, resident
  • Mark Clements, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, and
    Chicago Torture Justice Center
  • Michael Harrington, Network 49
  • Mylon Patton, resident
  • Nicolette Rivera, resident & community advocate
  • Rachel Murphy, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Rose Joshua, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
    (NAACP) Chicago Southside
  • Sherilynn Asuoha, Emmaus
  • Tanya Watkins, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL)
  • William Nate Sanders, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation
    (SOUL)