U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Chicago in Court for Police Reform

Judge Michael Dow, Jr., who is presiding over a high-profile case on police reforms, knows a lot.

He holds doctorates of philosophy and law from the nation's finest educational institutions. But that's not what makes him smart enough to handle the case.

With hundreds of people trying to get into the courtroom, the judge decided to let 76 voice their opinion. What he knows -- perhaps more than anybody -- is that they need to be heard.

Reform Plan

Dow is reviewing a 200-page plan to reform the Chicago Police Department, which has a history of police misconduct. The proposed consent decree between city and state officials stems from an officer-involved shooting in 2014.

Officer Jason Van Dyke was caught on video shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teenager. Van Dyke, who is white, shot McDonald 16 times. The teen, holding a knife, was walking away from police at the time.

The killing sparked "intense demonstrations across the city" after police released the video. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder.

The state attorney general sued the city, and together they submitted a reform plan to the judge for approval. The local police union and the Trump administration oppose the plan.

"Officers at Risk"

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech in Chicago, warning the reforms could lead to more violence in the city. At the hearing, union attorney Tim Grace said the consent decree would put "officers at risk and the public at risk."

That left about 75 more people to speak on the issue. The judge planned to give them five minutes each during the two-day hearing.

"I want to make sure everybody is heard," Dow said.

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