Representative Case, Policy, and Community Work

Clinic Profiles

Use of Force Community Working Group Issues Recommendations to Rewrite Chicago Police Policy on the Use of Force

Necessary Reforms to Chicago Police Department Use of Force Policies

The Use of Force Community Working Group was established as a result of the Chicago Police Civil Rights Consent Decree to include people in policymaking from communities that have been most impacted by Chicago police abuse.  After spending months studying CPD use of force policies and researching best practices from around the world, the Working Group made a set of urgent recommendations to remedy serious deficiencies in the current policies and dramatically reduce CPD violence and civil rights violations and save lives.

The recommendations prioritize the sanctity of all human life by requiring officers to de-escalate encounters with community members to avoid the need to use force, reserving force as a measure of last resort, and restricting the amount of force to the least amount necessary under the circumstances. They would:

  • Ban the use of chokeholds,
  • Restrict officers’ use of Tasers,
  • Prohibit force against peaceful protesters,
  • Restrict force against vulnerable people,
  • Require officers to document all uses of force, and
  • Respect the dignity of people injured or killed by the police. 

The complete set of recommendations can be found and needed revisions to existing CPD policies are available at the links below.

Bringing an End to Abusive Search Warrant Tactics in the Chicago Police Department

The Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project represents a coalition of community groups demanding changes to the Chicago Police Department's search warrant procedures In which police have repeatedly raided the homes of innocent Black and Brown families and pointed guns at young children with impunity.

Mandel Clinic Files Mandamus Action to Stop Incommunicado Detentions by Chicago Police

Mandel Clinic Wins Federal Consent Decree Over Chicago Police Department

The Clinic won an historic civil rights consent decree in federal court to remedy the Chicago Police Department’s pattern and practice of civil rights violations that have fostered conditions of police impunity and inflicted incalculable harm on generations of Chicago’s most disadvantaged families, especially African Americans.  What is more, our community-based clients won the right enforce the decree in federal court throughout the entire life of the decree.  This is the first time in United States history that community enforcement has ever been written into a government consent decree over a police department.  The decree emerged from years of advocacy by clinic students and clients calling on the United State Justice Department to conduct a top to bottom civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The Clinic’s advocacy led to the largest civil rights investigation of a police department in the Justice Department’s history, which documented Chicago’s unchecked patterns of police violence, racial discrimination, and the lack of police accountability.  However, after the 2016 elections, the Trump administration refused to redress the CPD’s systemic civil rights violations documented by the Justice Department, and instead opposed any court oversight of the CPD.  In response, Clinic students, together with individual victims of police brutality, Black Lives Matter-Chicago, the West Side Chapter of the NAACP, the Chicago Urban League, Latinx neighborhood organizations, and women’s advocacy groups, sought and ultimately won a permanent injunction, the appointment of an independent monitor, and federal judicial oversight over the CPD—a decree enforceable by people who have been most impacted by Chicago police abuse.  After an evidentiary hearing in which Clinic clients and students testified and submitted an eighty page brief documenting the urgent need for a decree, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Dow entered the proposed decree, appointed an independent monitor, and ruled that our clients had the right to bring direct enforcement actions under the decree.  The decree holds the potential to fundamentally transform policing in Chicago and end decades of police abuse.  This represents the accomplishment not just of the outstanding student team who brought this home, but also the work of former students dating back to the founding of the Clinic who long fought to make this day a reality.  It is now up to future students with our clients to ensure that the decree lives up to its potential.

The Killing of Laquan McDonald, the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, and the United States Department of Justice Investigation of the Chicago Police Department

The Police Accountability Clinic played a leading role in exposing the cover up of the Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and triggering a public awakening that has the potential to transform policing in Chicago and around the country. Prompted by a confidential call by a whistleblower from within Chicago law enforcement, the Clinic fought to bring the killing to public light, won a court order to release a police video of the killing that shocked the world, and won the appointment of a special prosecutor to prosecute Officer Van Dyke and other officers who covered up Laquan’s murder.  The exposure of the horrific image of Van Dyke pumping sixteen bullets into the body of a Black teenager, most of which while the boy lay on the ground, and the police cover up of the shooting, have brought world-wide attention to issues of systemic police abuse in Chicago and facilitated the greatest opportunity for police reform in Chicago history. Then Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged the police code of silence and created a city-wide Task Force on Police Accountability; the Cook County State’s Attorney who failed to act before the public release of the video was voted out of office. Clinic students’ successful petition for the appointment of a special prosecutor resulted in the first murder conviction of an on-duty Chicago police officer for killing an African-American in Chicago’s history, and criminal indictments against officers for participating in the code of silence to cover up the murder. The Mayor’s Task Force found systemic racism, a lack of accountability, a code of silence, and lack of community trust in the Chicago Police Department.  Guided in part by the work of Clinic students, it offered a series of concrete recommendations that together can lead to fundamental and lasting change.  The Clinic also successfully petitioned the United States Department of Justice to investigate the pattern and practice of civil rights violations in Chicago, the largest civil rights investigation in the history of the DOJ. The DOJ, with the support of evidence and data uncovered by the Clinic, documented the Chicago Police Department’s pattern and practice of civil rights violations, disproportionately borne by the Black community.

Clinic Develops Largest Police Misconduct Database in the Country After Establishing Legal Precedent That Police Misconduct Records Belong to the People

The Clinic created a national model for police transparency with non-profit partner, the Invisible Institute, in building the Citizens Police Data Project (cpdp.co), a public database that contains information about every available investigation of Chicago Police misconduct from 1967 through the present.  This project was made possible only by the Clinic’s appellate victories that established the legal precedent in Illinois that police misconduct records belong to the public. 

The Project has been used to free wrongfully convicted people in prison, defend individuals unjustly accused of crimes, prosecute civil rights violations, shed light on a system that has insulated abusive officers from discipline, support the largest Department of Justice civil rights investigation into a police department in its history, support investigative reporting from New York to Los Angeles, facilitate similar advocacy for transparency throughout the country, and provide the data for a number of scholarly articles to improve knowledge. Universities and lawyers in the United Kingdom are now drawing upon our students’ work to advocate for the development of a similar database there.

Youth/Police Project

The Clinic created a project with the Invisible Institute that works with Black high school students in Chicago to improve their experiences with the police. In addition to the Project’s central work with kids in high school settings, it has informed the entirety of the Clinic’s advocacy work, including ongoing work on the CPD consent decree and the interaction of police in Chicago Public Schools.  Project accomplishments include Illinois legislation on stop-and-frisk, training of police and police oversight agencies throughout the country on youth/police encounters, the production of student videos that were requested by the White House and have been used by the Department of Justice, a national academic conference on youth and police at the Law School, and a paper that has informed police reform efforts in the United States.

Community Oversight of Police

The Clinic has supported community-led advocacy to create genuine community oversight of the Chicago Police Department, and has helped to draft model legislation in support of such efforts.

Addressing Problems in Police Contracts that Prevent Police Accountability & Transparency

The Clinic continues to support community efforts to eliminate the provisions in Chicago Police collective bargaining agreements that impede police accountability and transparency to the public and have facilitated a pattern and practice of civil rights violations. The Clinic established the legal principle in the Illinois Supreme Court that the provisions in Chicago police contracts that require the City to destroy police misconduct records that are more than five years old are void and unenforceable as a matter of Illinois public policy.

Clinic Challenges Police Use of Stingrays to Spy on Activists

Clinic’s Fight for Justice With Woman Repeatedly Sexually Abused by Chicago Police in Public Housing

Diane Bond, a mother and public school janitor repeatedly abused by a group of five male Chicago Police Officers, has become an inspiration to women everywhere fighting gendered and sexual violence.  She not only won justice for herself, but she exposed a system designed to enable police officers to abuse the most vulnerable among us with impunity.

Clinic Wins Public Release of List of Officers With Most Abuse Complaints in Chicago

Mandel Clinic Challenges Illinois Forfeiture Law Before the United States Supreme Court

The Clinic won a consent decree, after its advocacy before the United States Supreme Court that challenged the constitutionality of Illinois’ drug forfeiture scheme. The Clinic reformed a decades-long government practice of denying people the opportunity for a hearing for a year or more after police seize their cars for possible forfeiture.  While police and prosecutors reaped millions of dollars from private property seizures, low-income women, represented by the Clinic, were deprived of access to their primary means of transportation to work, school, food, and medical care. After six years of intense litigation before the Federal District Court, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and United States Supreme Court, the Clinic won the right to prompt post-seizure hearings within 14 days before a judge in which property owners may seek the return of their cars.  The Clinic also established procedures that enable owners to retrieve their cars upon a showing of hardship. The Federal Judge who supervised the consent decree negotiations conferred the highest praise on Clinic students:  “The kind of conduct and responsibility displayed by the lawyers in this case make one proud to be in the legal profession.”   

Clinic Uncovers Pattern of Abuse Targeting Immigrant Communities in CPD’s Most Elite Unit

Clinic students won a nearly $2 million dollar verdict in federal court on behalf of a Latinx father who was robbed, kidnapped, and falsely arrested by a group of corrupt police officers.  A group of Chicago police officers from the Department’s elite Special Operations Section engaged in a years-long conspiracy to target vulnerable people for false arrest so that they could break into peoples’ homes and rob them.  Pursuant to their conspiracy, they falsely arrested Noel Padilla, who had just become a father for the first time.  They then dragged him around the city in handcuffs over the course of the next four hours, as they invaded the homes of his family members, looking for money to steal.  When they came up empty handed, they planted drugs on him; they robbed him of his money that he had saved for a security deposit for an apartment for his young family; and they wrote false reports accusing him of a crime that they knew that he did not commit—a crime that could have landed him in prison for the next 40 years. The false charges were ultimately dismissed 278 days later, as the Clinic helped to bring the officers’ criminal conspiracy to light.  Clinic students painted a portrait of impunity, in establishing the municipal liability of the City of Chicago for these Constitutional violations. They presented evidence through one of the nation’s leading mathematicians that the probability was far less than one in a thousand that the officers and their Special Operations colleagues would face any discipline when charged with falsely arresting, illegally searching, or stealing from people. 

Mandel Clinic Assists Public Radio in Opening Illinois Juvenile Prisons to the Media

Single Father Tortured by CPD With Chainsaw Wins Settlement

Three white male Chicago police officers with a long track record of racial and physical abuse, took a live chainsaw to the head of a single dad in Stateway Gardens, while he stood outside his home in handcuffs.  The officers seized the middle-aged father at gunpoint, moments after he had stepped onto his front porch to call in his 9-year-old autistic daughter for dinner.  Over the course of the next two hours, the officers mocked the Stateway man with racial epithets, invaded his home, and prevented him from caring for his young daughter—culminating in menacing him with a neighbor’s chainsaw and threatening to cut off his head.  Clinic students’ tireless advocacy with their client resulted in a significant settlement on the eve of trial.

Mandel Clinic Reforms Chicago Settlements to Eliminate Unethical Clauses That Restrict Attorneys' Right to Practice Law

Clinic Ends Chicago Police Practice of Holding Witnesses Incommunicado in Locked Interrogation Rooms Without Access to Lawyers

After two trials and an appeal before the Seventh Circuit, the Clinic won a consent decree that prohibits Chicago police from holding witnesses incommunicado in locked interrogation rooms and requires police to affirmatively inform witnesses that they are free to leave, before being questioned in any police facility. 

Clinic Advocates for the Creation of an Independent Agency to Investigate Police Abuse in Chicago

Clinic Fights to Reform Police Department's Disciplinary and Supervisory Systems

Clinic Wins Justice for Stateway Gardens Residents After Police Raid of Community Basketball Tournament

Clinic Wins Million Dollar Settlement for Homeless Man Wrongfully Accused of Murder

The Mandel Clinic worked to free a vulnerable young man who was coerced by Chicago police detectives into giving a false confession to the brutal murder of his own mother.  The Clinic also exposed the identity of the real killer, a serial rapist who attacked a number of African American women who lived in the same neighborhood.  Students later won a million dollar settlement with their client and established a trust to provide for his housing and needs throughout his lifetime.  In addition, the Clinic's work on the case brought national attention to the phenomenon of false confessions, played a prominent role in our nation's death penalty debate, including the Illinois Governor's decision to implement a moratorium, spawned legislation in Illinois and elsewhere that requires the videotaping of police interrogations, and caused the Cook County State's Attorney to implement training of all prosecutors on how to recognize the potential false confessions.

Clinic Wins Settlement Protecting First Amendment Free Speech Rights of Human Rights Worker

Manley High School Students Share Their Vision of Police/Youth Relations

In 2002, I met with a group of students at Manley High School on the West Side of Chicago working with the Umoja Student Development Corp. The students expressed concerns about their relations with the police in their neighborhood. The students shared with me a vision of a cooperative, positive partnership with police around issues of public safety. With their permission, I share with you a short video clip produced entirely by these students comparing their dream with reality through the eyes of our young men and women. I hope that together we can make their dream a reality.

- Professor Craig Futterman

View the video clip (MP4)

Examples of Clinic's Early Advocacy on Behalf of Individual Victims of Police Brutality