Latino Leaders Ask Justice Department For Investigation Into Death Of Adam Toledo

Press release

Latino Lawyers Demand DOJ Investigation, Immediate CPD Reforms and Increased Programming and Funding of Little Village CPS Schools and Community Social Services Post Adam Toledo Fatal Shooting

Neighborhoods in the City of Chicago are filled with thousands of children like Adam Toledo. Adam’s case, as tragic as it is, is only a symptom of a larger systemic issue that has plagued the Latino Community for far too long. Latinos, like their African American neighbors,  have always been on the receiving end of poorly conceived police law enforcement policies and practices. Far too often, interactions between Latinos and the police result in disproportionate stops, harassment, misguided arrests, and prosecutions for minor offenses. And, as the case of Adam shows, those interactions often bring fatal consequences to community residents. 

The disproportionate arrest and prosecution rates in the Latino community have conspired to  denigrate the good character of the overwhelming majority of community members who work very hard  every day to improve the quality of life in the community. It is therefore imperative that the Chicago  Police Department must do more to improve the way they approach law enforcement in our communities to minimize unjustified outcomes.  

The killing of Adam Toledo at the hands of the police brings to the forefront the pressing need to address the Chicago Police enforcement policies and practices in the Latino Community. We cannot leave it up to the police department to investigate itself and expect meaningful reforms. That has never worked in the past and will not work now. In addition, we call on the Chicago Police Department, the  Fraternal Order of Police, the media, and the public to stop vilifying Adam and the Toledo family throughout this process. The family has suffered enough and must be left in peace to mourn the loss of their child.  

As the family continues to grieve, the Department of Justice should deputize the U.S. Department of Civil Rights to conduct an investigation to determine whether the constitutional and civil rights of Adam Toledo were violated. We also need an impartial arbiter, and we are calling on the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland to conduct an investigation into the circumstances that led to, and resulted in, the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. 

That investigation should specifically look into the following areas: 

  • 1. Establish clear procedures and policies outlining the circumstances under which police officers can engage in foot chases, with criteria to discipline officers who do not follow the procedures. The training guidelines currently in place, a 5-page, single-spaced training bulletin are confusing at best, so much so that even Mayor Lightfoot has acknowledged that such procedures must be changed. 
  • 2. There must be clear procedures and policies governing any interactions between the police and children especially when lethal force is used. No more “Adam Cases.” The police video of the shooting in Adam’s case shows a terrified 13-year-old boy running from the police, disposing of what appears to be a gun, and then complying with the officer’s commands, including stopping, turning around with his empty hands raised, and then getting shot in the chest. Adam obeyed the commands of the officer that was chasing him. Yet, he was shot in the chest and died in the alley in less than a minute after being shot. This is a tragedy that could have and should have been prevented had the police department had clear policies and procedures governing the use of lethal force against our children during foot chases.  
  • 3. Establish clear procedures and policies setting forth the circumstances under which police officers can engage in car chases in densely populated neighborhoods. This is especially the case when the offense involves minor traffic infractions, such as the failure to activate a turning signal, broken taillight, displaying hanging items from the rearview mirror, playing loud music, etc. These minor infractions cannot be used as a pretext to engage in high-speed chases through our neighborhoods that endanger everyone in the community. Last year two innocent bystanders lost their lives during car chases: In one instance police officers were chasing a car because that car had a faulty turning signal and a faulty mirror. The driver lost control of his car during the chase and pinned down a pedestrian, Mr. Almazan, against a wall in front of a Walgreens Store in Little Village. Mr. Almazan died from his injuries shortly after the collision. In the second car chase, a young mother died when a police patrol car chasing another vehicle crashed against her car.  
Photo by Pablo Serrano

Only a thorough investigation conducted by the Justice Department designed to create clear policies and procedures to govern policing tactics in the community can bring a semblance of faith and trust from the Latino Community. The policies and procedures that result from the investigation must then be incorporated into a consent decree with judicial oversight to ensure that they are meaningfully enforced and implemented. Faith and trust in the police department are in short supply in our community right now. An objective investigation conducted by the Justice Department will send the message to our community, that this time is different; that this time their voices will be heard, and that  Adam’s death will not be just another sad statistic added to the ongoing death count.  

Moreover, the Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, must accelerate the City’s compliance with the existing consent decree requiring long-overdue Chicago Police Department reforms and immediately end foot pursuits that result in fatalities like Adam’s. Just two weeks ago, Independent Monitor Maggie  Hickey filed a third report summarizing the City’s compliance with the consent decree. The report highlights the need for the City to act with a higher sense of urgency to meet all 315 requirements. Particularly disturbing, as the report notes, is the Chicago Police Department’s failure to engage with communities, particularly communities of color. The report states, “We continue to be concerned about  how the CPD understands and discerns the differences and nuances among community engagement, community partnerships, community relationships, and community service.” Illinois Attorney General  Kwame Raoul also spoke out publicly stating, “Now, more than ever, the city and CPD must commit to  working with the communities most impacted by police misconduct in order to implement lasting, systemic change.” Perhaps if there were a greater sense of urgency to bridge the gaps that exist between CPD and the Latino community, Adam would be alive today. 

Lastly, Latino youth, especially those returning to CPS Little Village classrooms after the video release of  Adam’s shooting, will need increased support services and safe spaces for the last quarter of the school year and over the summer months. We demand more counselors and social workers to provide services to these traumatized youth. With the current student populations across southwest side schools, there is a need for 500 more social workers and 300 more school counselors. The Latino lawyers demand that  

Mayor Lightfoot and CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson target funds in excess of $80 Million to the Little Village community and other Latino community schools from the close to $2 billion dollars received from federal relief in order to meet the needs of our children. In addition, we need more street outreach workers, and social workers so we don’t have to increase workloads on current efforts and make the work ineffective. Lastly, our teenage youth need year-round jobs…we need to go beyond “One Summer  Chicago,” we need a partnership between public and private entities to create these job opportunities for our most at-risk youth.  

On behalf of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and the ABA’s Commission on Hispanic Legal  Rights & Responsibilities, I thank all our Latino elected officials, community partners, and business leaders for being here today. I also thank the Illinois Latino Agenda for standing with us hand-in-hand to effectuate the changes we urge are needed today.

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