Author: Lt. Dan Marcou

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A federal judge who will decide whether to approve a lengthy court-oversight plan to reform the Chicago Police Department started a highly anticipated two-day hearing Wednesday by saying he would allow dozens of people to voice their opinions on the proposal.

People lined up outside the downtown Chicago courthouse for a chance to be inside the large courtroom for the hearing. Once inside, Judge Robert Dow Jr. told the crowd he would allow 76 people to speak about the proposal, which among things calls for stricter rules on officers’ use of force.

“I want to make sure everybody is heard,” he said.

The 200-page plan hammered out by city officials and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has widespread support in minority neighborhoods that have long been suspicious of police and complained about police misconduct. But the plan, known as a consent decree, has been criticized by the police union and others, including President Donald Trump’s administration, who argue the proposal would deprive officers the flexibility they need to do their jobs.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Chicago and warned that the reforms could cause a surge in violent crime. He argued that the recent murder conviction of a Chicago police officer in the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald demonstrated that police officers who break the law are already “punished and jailed.”

The consent decree stems from a push for police reforms that escalated after the city was forced in 2015 to release video footage of the 2014 shooting that killed McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The video, which showed the teen holding a knife and walking away from officers, prompted an investigation of the police department by the U.S. Justice Department, which found widespead police abuses.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year, and they agreed to work toward a consent decree.

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