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A Chicago task force led by nearly a dozen Mayer Brown attorneys inspired solutions aimed at restoring a relationship between police and communities of color after high-profile killings that sparked a national conversation about the deadly use of force.

A dashcam video showing Chicago police officers shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death was the inspiration behind the Police Accountability Task Force in Chicago, announced Dec. 1, 2015, by then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Today, the task force's report continues to influence change, including helping to form policy governing the release of information on police shootings. A civilian-led group was also created to increase transparency.

"It was important to understand policing to improve it," said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which worked with the firm as part of the task force. "The firm laid out some of the critical issues that the city will have to contend with to improve policing."

The 3,000 pro bono hours the firm dedicated to this task force was one of the several the firm took on this past year related to law enforcement.

The firm also took on reform efforts with a similar task force in Fairfax County, Virginia, after an unarmed man was shot and killed by a county police officer.

Recommendations from this task force included establishing a civilian review panel and creating new standards for how police officers are trained. The firm also has several pending cases before the Supreme Court relating to police reform.

"Their focus is always to ask, 'What will it take to make the region better?'" said Brian Fabes, CEO of Civic Consulting Alliance, a long-time client of the firm. "If the rest of the business community had their passion we would be in a better place one day."

Civic Consulting Alliance has worked with Mayer Brown over the last six years on matters including revamping criminal justice systems and charter schools.

"The work we have done has made some real changes," said Marcia Maack, director of pro bono activities at Mayer Brown. Maack said the firm has also continued to focus on issues like representing the right of transgender students in controversial cases over bathrooms and those seeking asylum throughout the United States.

"One of the things we do through our program is try to make a broader impact with the issues of the day," Maack said. "Making a difference in one person's life does have a broad impact. We want there to be a balance between those two things."


Reprinted with permission from the April 3, 2017 edition of The National Law Journal © 2017 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.