This week, the U.S. Department of Justice as well as several U.S. major cities and their police departments are in the final stages of deciding whether to engage Hillard Heintze as a strategic advisor on various critical national-level policing initiatives. Our team has been organizing our proposals for these engagements and the task of documenting our experience in this area has stirred quite a few memories for me.

I know first-hand the constraints of a consent decree and what it takes to untangle a police department from the limitations of complex litigation. In 1982, the City of Chicago entered into a court-approved consent decree overseeing the Chicago Police Department (CPD). When I became the Department’s Superintendent, the 20-year-old First Amendment consent decree had yet to be satisfied – depriving the city’s communities of crucial protections and hanging over the CPD like a dark cloud. I can tell you that not addressing these important matters hampered policing efforts and lowered morale throughout the organization. Through diligently working with CPD’s legal staff and the City’s Corporation Counsel, this consent decree was lifted. The hard work of many men and women helped resolve this issue. An issue of this magnitude was not going to be smooth and without problems, so we set out from Day One to incorporate the diligence and sweat equity of all members of our team, the at-large CPD organization and of our course, the community. One of our principal goals was avoiding another consent decree linked to racial profiling and the 48-hour rule (charging an individual with a crime within 48 hours).

The problems in Chicago were long-standing and systemic. They did not appear overnight and did not go away overnight. The 48-hour rule, in particular, was resisted not only by rank-and-file officers but also by detectives and some members of the Command Staff who did not want to release a suspect after 48 hours if they were not officially charged. We fought long and hard against the entire CPD to do the legal and right thing. And I am proud to say that the policy is still being adhered to today. Our problems included issues with risk management, use of force, courtesy and demeanor, and searches and seizures, among other areas, critical to creating a police force that used best-practice policing techniques, policies and procedures. In order for the Department, City administration and community to move forward together, we had to actively work with all the stakeholders – CPD, the business community, faith-based organizations, civil rights groups and many other diverse communities across the City of Chicago to address the complexities that led the CPD to undergo a transformational change from an organization needed unity and direction into a world-class police force.