This is from the February 28th, for the Monthly Police Board Meeting. I attended with Jordan Bair and Jerry Wynn, my roommate and high school teammate, for my first assignment as a documenter with City Bureau. This is civic journalism or community reporting, so the intent is to bring this information out to the public. The details of these assignments, that are shared on the City Bureau Public Archive, will offer the Geek Village an opportunity to follow public matters and gain a source of meaningful information.
This meeting is for Chicago citizens to address their concerns to the Chicago Police Board and for the Police Department to be held accountable by the community in regards to disciplinary action and use of force.
Goals of Meeting
1)Report on the previous months of disciplinary actions in Blue Book.
2)Go over the Superintendent orders and report.
3)Address public grievances directly to the Police Board.
The main concern of attendees was the exploitation of Power by officers through sexual abuse of women, girls, and sex workers. Women representing different movements spoke on the nationwide problem. Another big problem is the systemic control that the State and the City have over funding that is meant to help the community being misappropriated and ignoring areas where investment funds would benefit Chicagoans. The other big concern was the ongoing investigations of multiple officers who community members want to bring to justice for violation of power.
Scene: Held in the Chicago Public Safety headquarters, the meeting had a very procedural set-up, as there were 15 officers surrounding the perimeter of the room and officers in the lobby area. These officers did not engage in the meeting as civilians, but there were many clusters of citizens who came together chatting and joking. The backdrop of the meeting was a banner that showed the Chicago Police Generation, “A Proud Family Tradition”, adding an ominous sense of being within the belly of a machine. This meeting is for Chicago citizens to address their concerns to the Chicago Police Board and for the Police Department to be held accountable by the community in regards to disciplinary action and use of force.
Mood: The meeting started with Lori Lightfoot addressing the audience and naming all the attendees of the board. Once the agenda began, Lightfoot’s procession of each agenda item was rapid and put many of the members into disarray. After the Superintendent’s report, the 6th agenda item, the community speakers expressed frustration and a sense of being ignored; when the theme that the audience brought up of sexual abuse by officers it was clear that for many they have been pursuing justice for many different cases. Racism and sexism were the major themes from the public.
One incident that truly set the mood was the taking of pictures Trina Kim Townsend. She was their pursuing justice from a 30-year-old rape case by CPD officer, and she brought pictures from the 80s before she was raped by this officer. Officers attempted to confiscate her pictures and it caused quite an uproar with many of the speakers addressing this moment. Discontent resonated throughout the room.
Police Board Speakers: President Lori Lightfoot. Sgt O’ Malley. Deputy Steve Flores
President Lightfoot opened up with the approval of the previous meeting minutes and acknowledgment of Commander Paul Bauer’s death in the line of duty. She directed the public to chicagopolice.org to look at the 2017 annual report and other useful information for the public. The disciplinary actions that were voted on regarded multiple officers and the yay or nay voting process was quick and efficient. The first case on Officer Mizuri was found not guilty of abuse. The second case, of Sgt. John Hulis was also dismissed. The third case regarding Officer Charro and Garcia ended with a suspension of both officers for 12 days; Sgt. O’Malley states that the Superintendent doesn’t agree with the actions of the officers. The process these cases are handled with can be found here.
Deputy Steve Flores gives Superintendent Johnson Report of the Police. The report states that murders are down 22%, shootings 28%, over 100 less shooting victims, and 1247 illegal firearms were confiscated in armed encounters.The deputy ends with the Superintendent agreeing with all the new gun safety measures passed at the state level.
Sexual exploitation and the abuse of power by the Chicago Police Department was the top concern of the public in this meeting. Multiple speakers called out the chronic abuse by officers and the retaliation that follows once an individual chooses to seek justice. These groups didn’t necessarily come together, but their concerns were the same; there is a culture of sexual abuse of women, teens, and sex workers within the Chicago Police Department and throughout the country.
Grace Tapino of the Huffington Post quoted an officer who claimed, “I thought she was an easy lay”. She states that the police need a separate body should investigate the police. She believes that the existing body shouldn’t handle investigations.
Jennifer Noel, a member of the CPAC Ordinance, pushed for the usage of a public accountability grant that the National Association of the Chiefs of Police has access to. She spoke of the police following an ethics that has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation. She looks to use the available resources at the nation’s disposal to train officers. Noel continued with a critique of the usage of Commander Bauer’s death as reasons for naming the police academy in his honor. She calls out the rare canceling of the Police Board’s Public meeting earlier this month, due to Bauer’s murder, by comparing them to the many other officers who were killed and weren’t given this special treatment. She tells the board that naming it after Thomas Worthen III, who was the child of a police officer and was gunned down by multiple men. Noel claims that the actions of the police show they aren’t trying to, “give power back”, but instead the system clearly has a bias towards in-custody sexual abuse. She ended her comments with, “tell me, ‘we want to be able to continue to rape people’, just let me know!”, and “why are children still being arrested (if they can’t consent) for prostitution.
Sheena Landis, part of the #Metoo and #TheyKnow, read excerpts by Samuel Walker the exploitation of teens by police. There were 183 cases over 12 years and 40% were teens. This included forced sex from sex workers. Officer retaliation is also evident. She gave this data to authority, repeating the lack of trust for the internal investigation.
Trina Kim Townsend continued her pursuit of justice against Officer Kevin Walker. This wasn’t her first time here addressing the board, as she has spoken with Lori Lightfoot, Chief Eddie Welsch of the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and COPA Chief Administrator Patricia Banks to begin the investigation. She immediately addressed the attempted confiscation of her pictures from earlier in the meeting, stating that she brought these pictures to showcase the transformation Officer Walker’s abuse caused her from her teenage years. Townsend started off stating, “I’m not the type to cause trouble”, and lambasted the authorities for treating her like she was disrupting the meeting. There is nothing in the Policy Regarding the Attendance of and Participation by the Public at Board Meetings. She didn’t prepare a speech but speaks from her heart. She points out the 30 years the officer has haunted her and his continual harassment as the investigation continues, even receiving messages from him through Facebook about “slandering his name”. She pressed for the investigation in a teary moment and President Lightfoot confirmed that the investigation is underway. Townsend came with the largest group of attendees who showed familiarity with each other, and their presence echoed throughout the meeting.
Queen Sister of the South Shore Cultural Center agreed they used Commander Bauer’s death, calling the planned academy the “Chicago Crime, Corruption, and Cover-up Center”. Jackie Page brought up the pictures again, as her phone was also attempted to be confiscated, stating the police had “no respect for the public”. Helen Henning raised attention on her own case dating back to 2007, which she believes she has a case that the officers have been using gangs to harass her since then. They all echoed the pain Townsend shared during her 2:00 minute of comments and concerns.
George Blakemore continued his public life as a critic of social inequalities. Speaking with the passion that had overtaken the attendees, he said: “It’s a new plantation” and noted the way institutional racism was in control of Black people.He states the board members were “on the plantation”. His presence seemed to be expected, as someone from the crowd claimed he does this all the time at City Hall. Calling the Police Board “niggas”, he went on a polemic that seemed reminiscent of a liberation theologist. This 78-year-old man will be a mainstay at public meetings for years to come.
Other speakers shared their thoughts on Rahm Emanuel’s impact on police accountability. Two attendees, Robert Moore and Ms. Hunt, claimed that calling out Rahm and his apathy leads to claims of antisemitism. Ellen Correlly, of Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, attended while representing an organization that focuses on stopping police crime, fighting for prison reform, and investigating legal injustices. Their shared concerned showed there were many outlets to get your story out.
One attendee came in honor of Pastor Dates and Progressive Baptist Church. Jasmine Oliver had the audience bow their head in prayer for Commander Bauer. The church wanted to reach out to the police community since they were clearly going through loss. This was a moment no one protested and everyone participated.
Next Steps: The next Police Board Public Meeting will be Thursday, March 22nd. All paperwork was handed off to the board to be investigated. The meeting notes will be released in the “Blue Book” at the following meeting.
This event has led me to further investigate Trina Kim Townsend’s case.
Thank you for your support!