The Chicago City Council Finance Committee today approved a $2.5 million settlement for a West Side family terrorized by Chicago Police in a precedent-setting, excessive force lawsuit charging CPD violated the family’s civil rights by breaking into their home, holding a loaded gun to the chest of a 3-year-old girl while she watched officers put a gun to her grandmother’s head and hit and shake and slam her handcuffed mother’s body against a wall. The full City Council is expected to approve the deal Wednesday, June 27.
Chicago Sun-Times: Aldermen Authorize $6 Million in Settlements Tied to Police Wrongdoinghttps://chicago.suntimes.com/news/aldermen-authorize-6m-in-settlements-tied-to-police-wrongdoing/
The plaintiffs’ attorney Al Hofeld, Jr., says the issue at the heart of the case – CPD’s failure to have a use-of-force policy and/or provide officer training that protects young children from police use-of-force – remains shockingly common yet invisible in policy and publicity.
“Thankfully, we now have heightened national visibility and outrage focusing on police fatally shooting young African-American men. What we are still not hearing are the stories of thousands of children routinely being terrorized by police, like the Chicago Police officers who held a gun to the chest of 3-year-old Davianna Simmons,” Hofeld said. “Between 2012 and 2015, roughly 1 out of 10 lawsuits the City settled involved someone younger than 18. This has got to stop. And I will continue to file these cases on behalf of young children of color until CPD makes it a priority to protect them. Right now, it is not even on CPD’s radar.”
Next Case: In a similar case Hofeld’s firm plans on filing later this month, officers with a warrant kicked in the door of the wrong apartment, entered with guns drawn and pointed at the family, ordered two young boys (ages 5 and 9) and their mother and father, to lie on the floor, and handcuffed the father in front of the children for 20-30 minutes while the children cried and pleaded. The officers continued to search the apartment long after they were informed they had the wrong apartment. They did not find anything illegal, and no one was arrested. Officers never apologized or explained to the boys, who are now exhibiting trauma-related behavioral issues in school and receiving therapy for emotional problems stemming from the incident.
Precedent-Setting: Hofeld’s is the first case to get the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) blistering report on the Chicago Police Department’s abuses of power and lack of training admitted into evidence at trial, highlighting the DOJ’s finding of a pattern of practice of excessive force against minors and a failure to hold officers accountable. To date, no reforms announced by CPD and the City of Chicago even mention addressing protecting minors against excessive or unnecessary police use-of-force. In fact, just last week, CPD again made national news when they handcuffed and traumatized an innocent 10-year-old, and the Police Superintendent defended officers’ actions:
During pre-trial hearings, Hofeld caught Chicago police officers lying and City of Chicago attorneys withholding evidence they had been ordered to produce, spurring outrage from the bench. Hon. Matthew F. Kennelly in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois threatened to hold post-trial hearings on the City’s conduct and drag city officials in to testify.
The police abuse detailed in Hofeld’s case, filed in November of 2014, bears striking similarity to the abuses outlined in the DOJ report.
On August 29, 2013, while executing a search warrant in her grand parents’ home, an officer pointed and held a loaded gun – point blank – to the chest of 3-year-old Davianna Simmons. Davianna watched another officer hold a gun to her grandmother’s head and saw a third officer repeatedly shake, strike and push her handcuffed mother into a wall. Then, while officers were searching the home, she saw and heard an officer damaging and destroying her dolls, other toys and bedroom furniture. (Complaint and Dr. Karnik). Officers never explained or apologized to Davianna.
Davianna, who, before the incident, was friendly and outgoing to everyone, including police officers, now has “one of the worst cases of child Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” ever seen by Dr. Niranjan Karnik, a pediatric psychiatrist at Rush Medical Center who was plaintiff’s medical expert. (Expert reports). Davianna, now 8, remains traumatized.
What happened to Davianna Simmons happens to Chicago’s children of color with astonishing regularity:
* The 2017 U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that CPD has a pattern of practice of using less-lethal, excessive force against children for non-criminal conduct. (Pp. 34-35).
* Between 2012 and 2015 the City of Chicago paid out $25 million in 63 lawsuits involving minors, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of all settled lawsuits in that period. http://chicagoreporter.com/trauma-of-witnessing-police-violence-is-not-lost-on-children/
*Roughly 1 out of 10 lawsuits the City settled during 2012-2015 involved someone under the age of 18.
*Although CPD has now revised its use-of-force policy and plans to make other reforms recommended by the DOJ, CPD’s new use of force policy still does not specifically protect minors or young children from being the target of or exposed to the type of trauma police subjected Davianna to. http://directives.chicagopolice.org/directives/data/a7a57be2-128ff3f0-ae912-8fff-44306f3da7b28a19.html?ownapi=1
*CPD has not expanded its officer training to include any consideration of the traumatic effect of police use of force on youth brain development. See http://www.chicagoreporter.com/99reforms/#/recommendations/1.
*A review of the comprehensive list of DOJ-recommended reforms that CPD and the City have publicly announced they plan to make doesnot include any reform or training that would reduce the use of force on or in the presence of children. http://www.chicagoreporter.com/99reforms/#/recommendations/1.
*A police officer training curriculum that teaches officers to interact with youth in ways that minimizes the use of force and the risk of trauma is available to CPD, and CPD could use it. Police departments in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Charlotte and other cities have trained their officers using a curriculum called “Policing the Teen Brain” to teach officers to use a trauma-informed approach to their interactions with teens and with adults when teens are present. http://chicagoreporter.com/trauma-of-witnessing-police-violence-is-not-lost-on-children/
*Timothy Longo, a former chief of police in Charlottesville, Va., and the Simmons’ police practices expert, had his officers trained in the “Policing the Teen Brain” curriculum when he was chief of police. But CPD, the second largest police department in the U.S., is currently still set up to repeat what happened to Davianna Simmons.
*There is little focus at CPD on police interaction with young children of color, whose still-developing brains are even more vulnerable to the impact of trauma. http://chicagoreporter.com/trauma-of-witnessing-police-violence-is-not-lost-on-children/
“Tragically, it’s not just federal policy that’s causing trauma to children of color right now; it’s our own CPD and City of Chicago that’s failing to protect them,” said Hofeld.