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Monitoring group: Chicago Police officers are taught their lives are more important than community safety

Chicago Police training tactics come under fire from community monitoring group
Chicago Police training tactics come under fire from community monitoring group 02:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Police training tactics are coming under fire – with a community monitoring group saying the tactics are fundamentally flawed and continue to foster a culture of misconduct.

As CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reported Wednesday, the community monitoring group was started as a result of the federal consent decree mandating reforms in the Chicago Police Department. The community monitoring group is not the same entity as the court-mandated independent monitoring team for the consent decree.

One of the group's efforts was to inspect what actually happens at the Chicago Police Academy – and take notes. The group's goal is to stop police brutality and the excessive use of force.

Gun-pointing incidents – some of which have involved guns being pointed at innocent young people as they order them to get on the ground – are considered a use of force.

"And that's traumatic for people – I've had a gun pointed at my head during a traffic stop," said Arewa Karen Winters, co-chair for the Chicago Use of Force Community Working Group.

The Chicago Use of Force Community Working Group monitored training at the city's new $170 million Police Academy. She says in addition to more training being needed on when or when not to point their guns, her group repeatedly heard veteran officers and recruits instructing the recruits that their lives were more important than the safety of the community.

"And the instructor said, 'Yeah, as much as we preach de-escalation and procedural justice, we've got to make split-second decisions - and the most important job is to go home," Winters said. "Again, it didn't say the most important part of job is saving lives."

Winters is one of 31 community members from that working group, which was created because of the 2019 federal consent decree. The decree mandates the Chicago Police Department change its patterns that proactively involve the excessive use of force - especially in Black and brown communities.

"We don't want to lose people by police violence under circumstances that should not cause someone to lose their life," Winters said.

The report states current training they witnessed "teaches officers their lives are worth more than the lives of community members," officers are taught an "us against them" mentality, and the report claims officers are taught how to "justify or even cover up police brutality."

Read the full report: 'Chicago Police Training Teaches Officers That Their Lives Matter More Than Community Lives'

The issues are the training being used and the language being used in training and methodology, according to Winters.

"You train them to do things the right way, or you untrain them from all things they have been doing historically wrong," Winter said.

She says even the training videos need to be changed.

"Everything was from the perspective of the police officer," she said. "None of the videos spoke to, like, the impact of community members."

Winters said officers also need to be trained about the kinds of trauma people go through when guns are pointed at them.

"We want that to be last resort," Winter said.

Next Wednesday, the group will be meeting with top brass at Chicago Public Safety Headquarters to talk about their findings.

In a statement, the Chicago Police Department said, "we want to thank the Use of Force Community Working Group for its input."

"We are reviewing the Group's recommendations and look forward to our next meeting as we work together to make Chicago a safer city for all.    

Sanctity of life is the Chicago Police Department's highest priority and the cornerstone of our use of force policies. As part of our ongoing transformation efforts throughout the past few years, we have substantially strengthened these policies surrounding use of force.    

The policies also inform the annual use of force training officers are required to undergo. This training focuses on how to safely follow Department policy and utilize de-escalation tactics. This is part of our commitment to fair and constitutional policing, which is rooted in building and growing trust across the city."

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