Reform and Racialization
Chapter five focuses on the years from 1960 to 1967, aligning with the tenure of Chicago Police Department Superintendent Orlando Wilson. Hired in the wake of a massive scandal within the police department, Wilson came in as a departmental outsider, and with aims to reform and professionalize the department and ensure greater accountability to the public. For these efforts, Wilson is remembered as perhaps the most consequential leader of the CPD in the department’s history. He implemented the first Internal Investigations Division and labored to better the image of the police in the eyes of the public. However, he was also a strong law-and-order proponent who firmly believed in an expansive police power, leading to an evermore aggressive police presence in Black neighborhoods that would have longstanding consequences and a contentious relationship with Chicago’s civil rights movement (known as the Chicago Freedom Movement) when it sought to use civil disobedience in pursuit of racial justice. At the same time, Wilson’s reform efforts—especially those intended to bring more oversight and accountability to police behavior—were fought tooth and nail by many of his subordinates, led by groups like the Chicago Patrolman’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and other police organizations that were direct ancestors of modern police unions. In the end, this meant that systems of accountability, while technically implemented during this period, were dysfunctional in actually halting police brutality and other abuses of power.
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