A consent decree that is part of federal court oversight of sweeping reforms to Chicago's Police Department was approved Thursday.
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A consent decree that is part of federal court oversight of sweeping reforms to Chicago's Police Department was approved Thursday.
CNN —  

Chicago police are a step closer to changes in use of force methods, impartial policing and other policies after a federal judge on Thursday approved a consent decree that has been years in the making.

The consent decree, which was negotiated by city officials and the state attorney general’s office, was given the OK by US District Judge Robert Dow, who will appoint a monitoring team to oversee the agreement.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called it a historic agreement, one that came about after seven other attempts at reform.

“This is a historic day for Chicago and a step towards significant, lasting change,” Emanuel and Johnson said. “This agreement builds on the strength of the reforms underway at the Chicago Police Department today, ensures there are no U-turns on that road to reform, and will help secure a safer and stronger future for our city.”

The fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by a white police officer, prompted the US Justice Department to launch in 2015 an investigation into the department after the case spurred protests about racial bias and police brutality.

A report described a pattern of excessive force and racially discriminatory policing that resulted from “systemic deficiencies in training and accountability, including the failure to train officers in de-escalation and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force.”

When the Justice Department didn’t pursue a consent decree, Lisa Madigan, the Illinois state attorney general at the time, stepped in, suing the city and alleging there was a “pattern of using excessive force” and other discriminatory misconduct against minorities in Chicago.

The department had begun to make changes, but they didn’t go far enough and court-ordered mandates were necessary to repair the “badly broken trust” between police and residents, the suit said.

New Attorney General Kwame Raoul called the agreement a “new beginning” for the department.

“There is a significant amount of work to be done to reform, and I am committed to this important work to make Chicago safer for both residents and police officers,” he said.

The 236-page agreement says it “requires changes in the areas of community policing; impartial policing; crisis intervention; use of force; recruitment, hiring, and promotions; training; supervision; officer wellness and support; accountability and transparency; and data collection, analysis, and management.”

Changes to use of force methods would build on revised policies instituted in October 2017. The agreement requires the department to analyze use of force reports.

The department will report every other year whether the policies meet the agreement’s requirements. The consent decree also calls for police to “establish and maintain clear channels through which community members can provide input.”

Consent decrees involving police departments are court-enforced settlements aimed at reforming departments where Justice Department civil rights investigations found evidence of a “pattern or practice” of biased policing on a wide scale.

The Chicago decree begins when the judge appoints a monitor.

Chicago’s police department is the third largest in the nation. It has more than 13,400 employees

CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Brad Parks contributed to this report.