Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has taken a pledge created by the Obama Foundation to evaluate and reform use-of-force policies within the Oak Park Police Department, as announced in a June 8 village news release.
The pledge comes in light of the numerous protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, a black man killed at the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. That officer has now been charged with second degree murder. The outrage sparked by Floyd’s death has prompted a national reckoning on systemic racism within law enforcement and the use of force by police officers.
The Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance organization has called on mayors to take action by reviewing use-of-force procedures; engaging the community “by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories in the review;” reporting findings to the community and seeking feedback; and reforming the use-of-force policies.
In taking the pledge, Abu-Taleb has committed to carrying out these four steps in Oak Park. Village Manager Cara Pavlicek has been asked to develop a process to carry out the steps within the community, according to the release. A recommended process is expected in the next week.
“A public review of our use-of-force policies is needed. The policies guide the authority we give our officers and it is time for a full discussion to understand what the policies are today and what changes are necessary,” Mayor Abu-Taleb said in the village’s release.
“Oak Park has always had a Police Department that values human dignity and human life. But I also know that by examining how we train our officers and giving them the tools and training to respond properly, I believe much can be done to improve the outcome of any future volatile situations.”
Recently, Abu-Taleb has faced criticism from some community members after saying during a June 1 village board meeting that police are profiled in a similar way as African Americans.
“A person of color is profiled against because they’re of color and a police officer nowadays feels the same exact way,” he said. “It’s assumed because they’re wearing the uniform, they are not going to treat people of color in a fair manner.”
Abu-Taleb has since apologized for the comments, which he said were taken out of context and then spread on social media.
The village’s release announcing that Abu-Taleb had taken the pledge included a statement from Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds, who is black.
“Since I joined the Oak Park Police Department in 1994 as a patrol officer, the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect has been part of the leadership culture here,” Reynolds said. “But we need to make sure our rules and procedures provide sufficient guidance for officers in situations that reflect today’s circumstances.”
Reynolds also said that he is “confident we can make our Police Department a leader in progressive law enforcement” and that he looks forward to the challenge and the opportunity.
The village news release includes a link to the police department’s webpage; the webpage does not contain a link to or description of the department’s use-of-force policies.
However, a copy of the policies, issued in 2007, associated with use of force were provided to Wednesday Journal on Monday by Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.
Under these policies, Oak Park police officers are prohibited from using chokeholds unless “deadly force” is justified and are required to exhaust all means when possible before using deadly force.
Officers are also required to issue a verbal warning before tasing, pepper spraying or shooting at anyone. They are prohibited from shooting at moving vehicles. The village requires that officers report every instance in which they threaten to or use force.