Remarks by U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon at News Conference on Investigation of Chicago Police Department
The following are remarks by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, as prepared for delivery at today's news conference on investigation of Chicago Police Department
Thank you Vanita. I am grateful to you, Attorney General Lynch, and to all of the outstanding women and men from the Civil Rights Division and my Office who have spent the last 13 months working so hard to make today happen.
Today, history is made, and it couldn’t come at a more important time. The past year has been among the most brutal in Chicago memory. Gun violence has overwhelmed us. We have been thunderstruck with grief and heartbreak, fear and confusion, uncertainty and sadness. Today’s findings, coupled with the City and Chicago Police Department’s commitment to work with us toward sustained change, are an historic turning point, a major step forward.
This is hard. I’m in law enforcement and have spent much of my career working with CPD. They are a noble institution with thousands of wonderful and brave public servants. The bad officers are fewer; the good officers are many.
But the institution as a whole has some challenges, and those challenges are getting in the way of being as good as we can be at fighting crime. I have seen that first hand.
The first step is taking an honest look at what’s wrong. And to be clear, that doesn’t mean pointing fingers or casting blame; that’s not what this is about. It’s about what an incredibly challenging job it is to be a police officer, and making sure that our police officers have what they need to do the job right.
As Vanita and the Attorney General both mentioned, the City and CPD have not stood still while we conducted this review. I want to thank and commend the City, Mayor Emanuel, Superintendent Johnson, and the many others at CPD and the City who have worked hard and thoughtfully over this past year or more. They have led, and are leading a number of new reforms and efforts to address some of these deficiencies.
In our report, we address each of those new measures -- in some cases simply with applause, because we agree with them; in other cases, by pointing out how or where we find the measures to be insufficient or inadequate. Those critiques, while important, do not detract from the reality that the City and CPD have leaned forward and are pushing for change. And with the City and CPD’s agreement today, we now have a framework – an anticipated Consent Decree that will include an Independent Monitor – for not only making sure change happens, but making sure it sticks.
Let me emphasize that point. The deficiencies we found are longstanding, some decades old. Prior reform efforts in Chicago’s history -- and there have been many -- have not gotten the job done. And over the years, these festering problems have impacted and to a degree even come to define CPD’s culture.
CPD officers need and deserve what the citizens of Chicago want and deserve: a culture of excellence; a culture of integrity; a culture of altruism; a culture of pride in public service. Today is a big step toward manifesting that culture. And I again thank the Superintendent and the Mayor, as well as their leadership teams, for being part of that.
There has been, over the past couple years, a lot of pain and polarization about policing. There are those who are very skeptical about police and want a complete overhaul. And there are those who think that police, particularly in a violence-ridden city, don’t need any reform and should be unfettered by scrutiny.
Neither. There is so much about CPD that is great and worthy of our deepest respect. And yet no one is above scrutiny, especially our public institutions. This report is balanced, and the truth lies in the balance. Today’s findings are consistent with a police force that is proactive, vigilant and effective. One is a means to the other. I strongly believe implementing these findings is a necessary precursor to our long-term fight against violent crime in Chicago.
Chicago is a world class city that faces a tragic and challenging reality in the form of our gun violence epidemic. Especially last year, but for decades now, we have had too many people die from gun violence; too many kids struck by errant bullets; and entire neighborhoods on the south and west sides unfairly, disproportionately afflicted by gun violence. I spend a large chunk of every day working with CPD and others to stop gun violence in those neighborhoods. For over three years, that is what has kept me up at night. And one thing I have learned is that for us to succeed, we need to fix these systemic issues at CPD.
When officers do bad things and there’s no accountability, that hurts us all. It erodes trust. And when you repeat that pattern year after year, that breaks trust. Broken trust seriously impairs law enforcement. As Superintendent Johnson has said, if folks don’t trust and respect CPD, they won’t work with CPD. If victims, victims’ families, and witnesses across entire communities won’t provide information to help solve crimes and take violent criminals off the street, then crimes don’t get solved, and violence continues.
Today, with the City and CPD, we begin to fix that paradigm. By providing CPD officers first-class training, proper supervision, a promotion system that is fair and is perceived to be fair. By having an accountability system, with consistent rules and results, that holds officers accountable when they violate law or policy. By doing those things we rebuild trust and repair relationships, and make Chicago safer and stronger.
I am a public servant who believes police officers are the noblest of our public servants. They are women and men who’ve taken a job at modest pay where every day they wake up not knowing if they may get hurt or even killed. I’ve been in law enforcement most of my career, and I know that the vast majority of officers do that for this simple reason: they are good people; they care; they want to serve and protect; they want to love and live impactful lives as part of our community.
It’s time to give them what they need to succeed, and in doing so, help all of Chicago shine.
I’d like to turn it over to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who’ll make some remarks, followed by Superintendent Eddie Johnson.