Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle and Portland were already under court-enforced agreements to reform their police departments. Then came protests against police brutality and racial injustice. FRONTLINE reports on how the protests impact police reform.
Handling of Public Protests a ’Stress Test’ for Police Reform
“[The protests] raised some questions that have not been resolved yet, about whether Seattle is truly in a position right now where the consent decree can be dissolved as it appeared to be right before the George Floyd incident,” Bobb said.
Lawyer Rebecca Boatright, the Seattle police department’s executive director of legal affairs, said the protests will “stress test” the consent decree. The judge overseeing the decree wants a thorough review of how police have handled demonstrations, Boatright said. She anticipates the research will become part of a greater push to change how law enforcement nationwide respond to future protests.
In Cleveland, the monitoring team posted a survey online to gather feedback on how police have handled the protests. And in Chicago, the city hosted public listening sessions before an independent monitor and the federal judge overseeing the city’s 2019 consent decree.
More than 500 people signed up for the Chicago sessions, with speakers chosen at random. A youth group leader described seeing her eight-year-old niece be pepper-sprayed. A photographer said she had been aggressively shoved and kicked by police. A young farmworker showed a scar on his forehead where he said a police baton had split his skin.
The consent decree “sets the standard for police response … especially when the protesters are expressing disdain for the police,” Sheila Bedi, a lawyer who represents a coalition of community groups, told the crowd. “And instead of upholding the rule of law, the CPD has subverted the requirements of this consent decree.”