Opening Statement of Joseph Lipari, 2018 Public Safety Committee Nomination of Joseph Lipari, July 19, 2018
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
The City of Chicago stands at a historic crossroads for police community relations and public safety. The difficult events of the past four years continue to play out on our TV screens and in the courtroom, and, as we saw this past weekend at 71st and Jeffrey Ave., continue to impact and shape street-level police interactions as well as police interactions with the community as a whole.
Chicago faces a difficult journey to establish trust and rebuild its oversight agencies. It will require experience, professionalism, and integrity, but also patience, persistence, and the ability to speak to (and more importantly, listen to) a variety of stakeholders.
Building trust between law enforcement and the community in Chicago will require a willingness by public officials to acknowledge past and current problems, a commitment from all agencies to adopt and maintain national best practices, oversight practitioners with the technical skills needed to improve policies and training, and effective outreach and communication to elevate the public discussion.
I believe that my personal and professional past experiences have left me well-prepared for these challenges.
I grew up in south Louisiana, between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico – between black people and white people – a cultural gumbo that included Creoles and Cajuns. Not surprisingly, I became interested in better understanding cross-cultural contact and race relations.
So I came to Chicago in 2002 to study U.S. and African American history as a graduate student at UIC. After learning about the difficult history of policing in Chicago, I chose to specialize in the history of the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the city’s black communities, with a focus on the institutional changes occurring within CPD over the course of the 20th century, how those changes affected black Chicagoans, and how Chicago’s black communities responded. This multi-year course of study led me to understand that these events are the product of an extended institutional process that requires an equally institutional response. My education in this field helped me recognize the critical importance of building enduring institutions that continuously examine and reform policing.
I then spent four years rebuilding the Citizen Review Board in Syracuse, New York. There, I experienced the difficulty of reestablishing an oversight system that first had to overcome a legacy of mistrust and a poor reputation. I worked to professionalize investigations, collect and analyze data that would inform public discussion, and provide policy and training recommendations to address long-standing concerns.
I then moved from Syracuse to the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department under the New York City Department of Investigation. There, I have led the office’s investigations of NYPD’s approach to Crisis Intervention Training and Dispatch, case management systems and complaint tracking technology, and compliance with use-of-force reporting. I have helped manage the Policy Unit, coordinated with the Investigations Unit, and developed topics for future reports. I have had the good fortune of working with professionals from a variety of backgrounds: in law, policy, data analysis, auditing, and investigations. My colleagues included a former NYPD patrol officer and academy instructor, a community organizer, former prosecutors, and academic researchers – all working together to improve police operations and service. In my work, I have met regularly with NYPD’s legal department, the Department’s top commanders, and precinct supervisors. I also represented the office at meetings with community advocates where I have been able to listen to their concerns and discuss with them how our office’s work could address those concerns.
The Public Safety IG in Chicago will have to work to build trust with both the police department and the community simultaneously. I believe that the experiences I describe have prepared me to do just that. By being forthright with both sides, and using data collection and sharing as a basis for developing a common understanding of the problems, the Public Safety IG can help the City move away from debating what Chicago problems are, and instead begin to answer the question: what is to be done?
When the public knows that they have access to effective mechanisms to address police policy and practices, they have the space and the confidence to extend greater trust to law enforcement. That trust is the fundamental basis of constitutional policing in a modern democracy. It won’t be easy, but Chicago can establish a new standard for trust between police and community based on comprehensive data analysis, active public engagement, and robust accountability.
I look forward to working with and learning from all of you – elected officials, advocates and community members, police management and line officers, as well as other oversight professionals here in Chicago. We have a challenging road ahead, and there will be setbacks along the way, but I am confident that – like other cities that have gone through this process – we will emerge a better, safer, and more just city.
Thank you for your time. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.