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U.S. Justice Department officials meet with Retired Black Chicago Police Officers

Richard Wooten, Founder and President of the Gathering Point Community Council along with several black retired police officers, and CAPS volunteers met with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday morning March, 24th to discuss the ongoing investigation by the DOJ of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for alleged civil rights violations.

This was just one of many stops in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the DOJ community tour to hear local voices from retired and active police officers, as well as, community leaders heavily involved in the CPD.

“This was an opportunity for all of us to unify and make our voices heard to DOJ officials in hopes for a new wave of change in the Chicago Police Department,” says Wooten, who believes the DOJ recommendations will bring light to many issues facing the CPD.

The four DOJ members that met with the group of retired police officers and community members were:

Christy Lopez, Attorney, Deputy Chief of Special Litigation for the Civil Rights Division

Sharon Brett, Attorney

Kate Smith, Community Outreach

Scott Thompson, special expert, Chief of the Camden, N.J. Police Department

During the meeting, DOJ members gave insight on the focus, process and steps being taken during their investigation. “We’re going to be analyzing a lot of documents about training procedures, we’re meeting different community organizations, and also different police officers to hear their voices to get a full understanding of what's happening,” said DOJ rep Christy Lopez.

After a brief summary of their investigation, the floor opened up to an hour of questions and recommendations from retired officers and various community members. Out of the many subjects and recommendations provided the topic reiterated most was the disparity of blacks in the supervisory roles in the CPD.

“If this department is supposed to be reflective of the people it serves, it is certainly not. We have one area that has no black detectives in it, and in other areas we make up less than 10% of predominantly black communities,” said retired police sergeant Joseph Mosely.

Mosely along with Wooten and other retired officers also touched on the subject of promotions within the department, “It depended on what click you were in, there were plenty cases where good officers who did great work were passed over for a promotion because they didn’t play CPD politics,” says Wooten.

After the fatal shooting video of McDonald was released in late November, the DOJ has been investigating the CPD for violation of civilian civil rights, focusing largely on use of force and the disciplinary process for wayward officers.

The investigation will likely wrap up by years end, and if a pattern of mistreatment or violations are found they’ll write a lengthy letter recommending what reform needs to be done in the CPD. Then, the tough task will be on the Chicago Police Department to make efforts to implement the recommended changes.

“This letter of decree will serve as our recommendations to the police department and be available publicly because we want full transparency on this matter and want civilians to see the efforts we have made,” said DOJ rep Sharon Brett.

DOJ members will continue their investigative tour around the City of Chicago hearing from many other police officers and community members from various neighborhoods to get a better understanding of the civil rights violations occurring within the CPD.

"The community is frustrated, we are all frustrated with the system put in place and it's time for a change," says Wooten. “With the help of the DOJ we can begin to make those efforts toward building a better police department.”

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