Statement on lack of charges against Chicago Police officer in Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier shooting


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
Action Now rejects State's Attorney's decision
Prosecutors need to provide answers to community 
 
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has declined to bring charges against Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo in the fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones on December 26, 2015. The State’s Attorney’s Office said there is “insufficient evidence” concerning the officer-involved shooting. We at Action Now reject the State’s Attorney’s Office’s conclusion and are disappointed in the decision not to prosecute the officer.

The recent Department of Justice findings of glaring failures in investigating cases of misconduct by the Chicago Police Department are further proof of the long-held belief that justice is being denied to people who have been violated by police officers. The State’s Attorney’s office has the power to investigate and prosecute police misconduct despite the lack of accountability within the police department. A failure on the part of the county’s investigative arm to provide justice for former Action Now member Bettie Jones’s and Quintonio Legrier's families is ample reason for our communities to distrust those in power to protect them.

“This is frustrating and beyond discouraging.  There is no reason why these two community members should have died, other than police negligence. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the State’s Attorney’s Office will have to do much better if they are ever going to earn long-term trust of community members,” said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Despite this disappointing decision, Action Now members invite Kim Foxx to speak with us about her plans to build trust between the community and the State’s Attorney’s Office. We are eager to share our ideas with her on moving forward withcommunity-based plans to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. 

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Statement on minimum wage 'grand bargain' in IL Senate Bill 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
 
 Contact: Katelyn Johnson
No Bargain for Illinois Workers
Senate Bill 2 Needs to Do Better

Illinois workers are falling farther and farther behind because of stagnant wages. For years, Action Now has been part of a coalition that has sought a living wage for Illinois. This has meant working with groups across the state who have been concerned about the rising inequality here that has accompanied fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis. We see the Fight for $15 as the answer. And that's why we believe that Senate Bill 2, currently being considered as part of the so-called "grand bargain" package does not honor our principles and is, in fact, a significant step back, as written.

 Locking in a wage floor of $11 by 2020 does not go far enough in dealing with the problem of inequality. Currently, more than 41 percent of all workers in Illinois earn less than $15 per hour. Setting that as the standard for 2020 is a reasonable and phased-in solution. Across the country, state and local governments have felt the same. This could be our moment.

SB 2 also pre-empts places like Cook County and the City of Chicago from raising wages on their own. Given the significantly higher costs of food, transportation and housing in these communities, it is a major step back to take away their local government's ability to respond to the needs of their workers. And the idea of "pre-emption" and erosion of home rule also brings with it the types of insult to racial justice that are so abundantly evident in places like Flint, Mich.

"The fact of the matter is that Illinois is overdue for a reasonable wage of at least $15 per hour. There are too many working families struggling to get by to continue to compromise on doing what is fair and what is right", said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now

Simply put, we can't support SB 2 as it's written. If this is supposed to be the "progressive" part of the "grand bargain," it needs to do a lot better. A $15 wage floor and eliminating pre-emption is the place to start.

Action Now is a part of a coalition of organizations including Fight for $15, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, fighting for working families and a minimum $15 per hour living wage.

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Action Now board member Alvesta Sanders

 

                                                                                                                                 

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What neighborhood do you live in?

Englewood

How long have you been a member of Action Now?

Since 2008.

What made you get involved?

An organizer spoke with me about a community action and invited me to come out. I attended a neighborhood march and saw the immediate impact on bringing awareness to the neighborhood. What I saw that day affected me, and made me want to get involved and take action to change my community for the better.

What do you hope to accomplish with Action Now?

My community needs resources and investment to make things better for everyone. I want to help bring those resources so that our kids can thrive in a safe and stable environment, which will hopefully help put an end to the violence that has plagued our streets.

 

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Action Now statement on the Department of Justice report on the Chicago Police Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                
Contact: Katelyn Johnson
(312) 676-4280

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Action Now calls for delay on new FOP contract
The City should agree on consent decree for federally mandated reforms

The Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department has been released, and the conclusion is that the department is in need of major reform. Action Now believes that it is imperative to stop negotiations on the new police contract until the City and the federal government introduce the framework around how reform will be implemented.

We have engaged in multiple conversations with city residents on police reform, with many concluding that the FOP contract is a critical starting point for improving community policing. The current contract makes it too hard to identify police misconduct by allowing practices such as requiring investigators to ignore and destroy evidence, requiring affidavits to investigate misconduct and limiting the investigation of anonymous complaints against officers. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of disturbing practices in Chicago that includes excessive uses of force, the need for de-escalation tactics taught in officer training, a critical lack of oversight of rogue officers, and a glaring deficit in investigating cases of misconduct. These issues can and should be addressed through the negotiation of the union contract.

“The FOP contract could present significant barriers to the reform measures agreed upon by the city and the federal government.  The city council must consider delaying the negotiations until the consent decree process is complete”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Any negotiations regarding the new FOP contract must cease until there is not only clarity on the federally mandated reforms that can be overseen by an independent monitor, but also robust input on the changes the people in our communities want to see. The top down approach to community policing is a part of the problem, and it is about time that the voices of the people are heard in this ongoing fight for accountability.

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Action Now Statement on DOJ report on Chicago Police

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                Contact: Katelyn Johnson
(312) 676-4280

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Action Now calls for delay on new FOP contract
The City should agree on consent decree for federally mandated reforms

The Department of Justice investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department has been released, and the conclusion is that the department is in need of major reform. Action Now believes that it is imperative to stop negotiations on the new police contract until the City and the federal government introduce the framework around how reform will be implemented.

We have engaged in multiple town-hall conversations with city residents on police reform, with many concluding that the FOP contract is a critical starting point for improving community policing. The current contract makes it too hard to identify police misconduct by allowing practices such as requiring investigators to ignore and destroy evidence, requiring affidavits to investigate misconduct and limiting the investigation of anonymous complaints against officers. The DOJ uncovered a pattern of disturbing practices in Chicago that includes excessive uses of force, the need for de-escalation tactics taught in officer training, a critical lack of oversight of rogue officers, and a glaring deficit in investigating cases of misconduct. These issues can and should be addressed through the negotiation of the union contract.

“The FOP contract could present significant barriers to the reform measures agreed upon by the city and the federal government.  The city council must consider delaying the negotiations until the consent decree process is complete”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

Any negotiations regarding the new FOP contract must cease until there is not only clarity on the federally mandated reforms that can be overseen by an independent monitor, but also robust input on the changes the people in our communities want to see. The top down approach to community policing is a part of the problem, and it is about time that the voices of the people are heard in this ongoing fight for accountability.

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Community conversations on police reform

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Community members gathered to discuss Police Reform

As part of the fight for justice in our communities, Action Now recently held two town-hall meetings on police accountability. With the recent passage of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ordinance in the city council, and the upcoming police contract bargaining sessions, we felt it was important to hear from community stakeholders on what reform should look like.

In November we held our first meeting with residents on the South Side, together with our partner organizations Workers Center for Racial Justice and S.O.U.L. in the BlackRoots Alliance. The focus of the meeting was not only to hear testimony from members who have experienced police misconduct, but to get input on what changes can be implemented from both the City of Chicago and the community to fix the problems that exist.  It was important for us to bring together people from across the South Side, and we found that a majority of people shared negative interactions with police officers. People expressed having no trust in the police or the system under which they serve, as well as an overwhelming anger about the failures of leadership to discipline cops when they abuse power. Members stressed the need for real reform, not just more of the same ‘smoke & mirrors’ that has been the status quo for decades in Chicago.

We held another meeting in early December, this time on the West Side. The experiences of the West Side residents mirrored what we heard from folks on the other side of the city.  It was clear the people felt that the time for talking without action was over. They are fed-up, tired of seeing their brothers and sisters profiled, harassed and gunned down in the streets without repercussions for the cops that continue to treat them like their lives don’t matter.

At each meeting there were break-out sessions, which allowed participants to come together in smaller groups to answer the question, “If you had oversight of the Chicago Police Department, what changes would you like to see?" There were many suggestions made through rigorous back-and-forth debate, but among the many suggestions that people at both meetings agreed upon were the following:

  • An FOP (police union) contract with the city that removes previous barriers for police accountability.

  • A mechanism that allows for community members to participate in the contract bargaining process.

  • A process for dealing with police misconduct that includes community oversight both in the investigation of and in the discipline/removal process of bad officers in the department, as the recently passed COPA ordinance does not provide this necessity.

  • An emphasis on restructuring the recruitment and training of new officers that provides for things such as cultural sensitivity training, PED testing and mandatory community service in the communities they will work in.

We will continue to engage in this conversation with our neighbors and our elected officials.  The path to a better community policing model has to include all of our voices in the process and implementation, and we are confident that this is the beginning of the reform that has been so desperately needed.

In Solidarity,
Action Now

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Action Now fighting for reform in 2016

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Action Now members on the move

2016 has been a busy year for Action Now.  While fighting for economic justice and education reform, we have also demanded changes to the criminal justice system in Chicago, in light of the recent exposure of police violence that has wreaked havoc in our neighborhoods. Here is a quick synopsis to get you up to speed of where we are, and what is coming next:

Elected Representative School Board
  • ERSB - We have pushed for an elected school board that is representative of Chicago communities, as we are the only school district in the state that does not have an elected board. The current board is appointed by the mayor, with the voices of parents being shut out on major decisions.  The issue has been put to a vote in the state not once, but TWICE by referendum, with almost 90% of voters in support of the measure. We are currently working with local organizations like Pilsen Alliance, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Lugenia Burns Hope Center in pushing the Senate to vote on the issue during the fall veto session.  State Senator Kwame Raoul (D- Chicago) is a sponsor of the bill and is pushing for the bill to be called to a vote, after changes are made that will improve the effectiveness of the law.

Progressive Police Oversight

  • Police Accountability - Our membership has picked up the pace in our fight for police accountability reform in Chicago. Over the summer, Action Now members attended both the South Side and West Side meetings sponsored by the city council to give community input on solutions to the problem of police violence on our streets. While this was a chance for our community members to voice their concerns on how to bring bad cops to justice in Chicago, much of the decision-making was done without community input. In early October, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council passed the Civilian Office of Police Accountability Ordinance (COPA), an agency meant to replace the old police oversight agency (IPRA) that had been in place since 2007. Action Now is not in favor of COPA because there is not enough community oversight in the agency, as well as the problem of the mayor still having the power to appoint the person who will lead the investigative body.  As members of Black Roots Alliance along with Worker’s Center United for Justice and S.O.U.L., we are working with aldermen, activists and community members to push the city council to amend the ordinance to include more oversight and a community focused election/selection process.

State Budget & Economic Justice

  • Families First, Banks Last Campaign - Through our membership with Grassroots Collaborative, we joined with multiple organizations from the Chicagoland area in demanding that Governor Rauner stop making payments to the big banks in bad interest rate swap agreements that cost our people millions of dollars every year. Even in the midst of a stop-gap budget passed during the budget crisis, that money should instead be used to fund early childhood education programs, anti-violence initiatives and after school programs that will help the most vulnerable in our communities. We will keep up the pressure for budget fixes that benefit all of Illinois, not just the wealthy and folks with connections to the powerful.

There is still much work to be done, in 2016 and beyond. We are hosting a community meeting on police accountability on November 19th.  To find out more information, contact your organizer.

In solidarity,

Action Now

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Statement from Action Now on COPA ordinance passing the Chicago City Council

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Action Now opposes Mayor Emanuel's plan for investigating police misconduct
Proposed agency lacks transparency and community oversight
 
Mayor Emanuel has repeatedly espoused the rhetoric of community support when campaigning for change, while pushing through his policies and agendas without the will of the people being considered. The passing of the COPA ordinance in the Chicago city council is a continuation of that flawed process. Action Now does not support the COPA ordinance because it does nothing to address the demands of the community. Any information that has been shared contrary to this statement is inaccurate.

Over the past several months, the mayor and the city council have publicly asked for input, holding town-hall meetings with the understanding that the people of Chicago will have a voice and be a part of the process of reforming the Chicago Police Department.  What has transpired instead is an oversight mechanism that does not reflect the preferences of the communities it serves. The COPA agency does not have a community appointed board that has investigative powers over police misconduct, nor does it allow for community members to select the head of the agency, but instead leaves that power under the control of the mayor.

“What the community asked for was real, progressive reform of the accountability process for police misconduct, but the COPA ordinance is just more of the same concerns that we had under IPRA. The mayor and the city council are ignoring the voices of the people, and that is a serious problem”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

We are only in favor of an agency that is independent from the mayor’s office, with robust review from community members, whether that be through an elected community board or an elected independent auditor. Despite the passing of the ordinance, we will continue to demand real reform of the police department, with collaboration and oversight from multiple stakeholders and our communities.

 

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Federal Reserve reform gets into the Democratic Party platform

The final draft of the Democratic Party platform was ratified on Tuesday and it represents a victory for the Center for Popular Democracy's "Fed Up" campaign, a broad-based effort to reform the Fed while building a full employment economy for all communities.

For the longest time, the banks and Wall Street investors have not only had more power over America's financial system than everyday citizens, but they have also enjoyed more power than many of the elected officials that are put in office to protect our communities from that very same problem. There has also been a lack of diversity in the Fed, which is a reflection of how often people in poor and minority communities are overlooked when it comes to financial policies.

It has been an uphill battle to remedy this, but the Democratic Party platform now has language for the first time in more than 30 years that calls for reforming the Federal Reserve:

"We will protect and defend the Federal Reserve’s independence to carry out the dual mandate assigned to it by Congress—for both full employment and low inflation—against threats from new legislation. We will also reform the Federal Reserve to make it more representative of America as a whole, and we will fight to enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards....

"...That is why we are committed to doing everything we can to build a full-employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity with a sense of purpose."

The inclusion of "full employment" in this document as an indicator of the economic health for America cannot be underestimated. It is the recognition that the Fed and the policies thereof should be working for all Americans, and not just those connected to the moneyed classes.

This is a small step towards building equity in our financial system, but it is one of many more to come.  This work must continue so that we can have an economy free from the dominance of the big banks and one that works to serve the needs of all people.  

For more info on the "Fed Up" campaign to reform the Federal Reserve and the Center for Popular Democracy, click here.

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Action Now and faith leaders hold rally to support Reverend Catherine Brown in her suit against the Chicago Police Department for excessive force.

 

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 For Immediate Release

 

Press Release

Community members demand justice in Chicago police excessive force case

 Faith leaders, activists and community members gathered in front of Chicago Police Headquarters to support a call for progressive police reform.

 

Chicago - On Friday, May 13th, 2016 at 11:00 AM, Action Now members and community leaders held a rally in front of Chicago Police Headquarters in a show of support for Reverend Catherine Brown, a mother of three that is suing the department with claims of excessive force, stemming from a 2013 incident caught on dash-cam that shows the officers beating, pepper spraying-and dragging the woman from her car.

 

In the video, Reverend Brown can be seen driving down an alley towards her driveway when she encounters a marked CPD squad car heading towards her without lights or sirens. Officer Michelle Morsi Murphy jumped out yelling profanities and ordered Brown to move her car.  Officer Jose Lopez pointed his gun at Brown’s head as she reached for her license. Fearing for her life and that of her two small children, she called 9-1-1 repeatedly and backed out of the alley while blowing her horn for help from neighbors.  Officer Morsi and Officer Murphy chased her in their car, and rammed her after she came to a complete stop.  The officers forced her door open, pepper-spraying her as her children screamed and forcefully dragged her from her car as they are seen striking her as she lay on the ground.

 

The officers from the video are currently still on duty with the Chicago Police Department. Community members have seen that the Chicago Police Department continues to allow unacceptable conduct from its officers.  Spurred by the Laquan McDonald case, the Department of Justice recently investigated the department over extensive allegations of excessive force and other misconduct.  Too often, officers are shielded by a “blue code of silence” when it comes to claims of excessive force, and are rarely removed from duty.  Officer Morsi Murphy currently has 19 complaints lodged against her, while Officer Lopez has 21, according to Citizens Police Data Project. Local activists and faith leaders see this as a major problem with police accountability.

 

“The Chicago Police are not holding their officers to the highest standards of conduct, especially  in black and brown communities.  For too long, officers have been allowed to engage in conduct that endangers the physical and psychological well being of the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect.  We need progressive police reform in order to bring justice to these communities”, said Katelyn Johnson, Executive Director of Action Now.

 

If the Chicago Police want to restore faith in the communities they serve, then they can not continue to protect officers that do not perform their jobs to the highest of standards.  Complaints of excessive force are all too common in the city, and lack of disciplinary actions are even more common.  Superintendent Johnson must show that he is serious about working with the community in initiating progressive policing reforms.  Officers like Morsi-Murphy and Lopez should not be working for the department with so many complaints against them, with the Brown dash-cam video being just one glaring example.

 

“"These officers should not still be on duty.  We demand that the superintendent give us the justice we seek. He should do the right thing and remove these officers from our streets, so that we can all have peace" said Catherine Brown.




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Action Now is a grassroots community organization of working families in Chicago fighting for racial, social and economic justice.  For more information, please visit www.actionnow.org




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