Chicago on Wednesday passed an ordinance that creates an elected board of directors to oversee the city’s police department, a major step toward law enforcement accountability that has long been encouraged by community organizers.
City council voted 36-13 to approve the surveillance, just a few more votes than the two-thirds majority required by Mayor Lori Lightfoot for this specific ordinance. The proposal was created by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety coalition, which is made up of several local organizations.
“There is a saying about Chicago: Chicago is not ready for reform. Well, today is Chicago, “said Alderman Leslie A. Hairston, who first introduced the ordinance in 2016.” And you saw it in what we presented today. hui and what we adopted today. … We have something that has been put in place by all of the people that include people.
The ordinance allows city council to create three-member boards in each of Chicago’s 22 police districts and an appointed seven-member board overseeing the city, effective Jan. 1. A separate council made up of residents who are not citizens advise the commission on issues that affect the city’s immigrant and undocumented communities.
Opponents of the new civil commission have expressed concern that it would complicate the police department’s efforts to stop a wave of violent crime and make little difference in reforming the current department. Supporters touted it as a genuine effort to try and build trust in the police, as the department constantly faces allegations of misconduct.
“We need to return our department to a community-oriented organization,” Democratic Alderman Jason Ervin told council ahead of the vote. “The first interaction the kids in my neighborhood have with the police shouldn’t be on the hood of a car; it should be in a community framework.
The order approved Wednesday gives Civil Council the final say on policy as it relates to the Chicago police and related liability agencies. Civilians elected to the commission can recommend candidates to the mayor for the post of police commissioner and to the Chicago Police Board. The commission can also hire the head of the Civil Police Accountability Office (COPA), which is the municipal agency responsible for investigating police misconduct.
If the supervisory board votes by a two-thirds majority, it can pass a resolution of no confidence in the superintendent, the COPA chief and any member of the police council – which could result in city council action.
A 2017 Department of Justice investigation after a white Chicago police officer killed Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black man, found that city officers repeatedly violate the constitutional rights of black and Latino residents and are rarely held accountable for their actions. The investigation resulted in a court order requiring the police service to implement reforms. Although COPA was formed in 2016, officers continued to harass, assault, and kill Chicagoans with little consequence.
ECPS, the grassroots group of organizations, presented an earlier version of the civilian oversight proposal that Lightfoot supported during his campaign for mayor and vowed to pass in his first 100 days in office. City council planned to adopt this version early last year, but Lightfoot changed course at the last minute and opposed it because she wanted the final say on politics.
From September 2020 until last week, the mayor repeated her claim that she would not be able to keep Chicago safe as long as a potential civilian council had more than advisory powers for her. Last weekend’s negotiations resulted in Wednesday’s proposal.
Although the version of the ordinance passed Wednesday gives the board of directors authority over police-related policy, Lightfoot can veto decisions of board members and the city council can overrule that veto with a two-thirds majority.
“Today’s news is a testament to organizers on the ground who have fought tirelessly for years to bring real justice and accountability to the DPC. I’m grateful for their work in bringing this issue to the fore and leading us to this moment, ”said gun violence activist Kina Collins, who is running to represent the city’s south and west sides in Congress.
“At the same time, today’s reform is just the start of the change we need,” she added. “If we really want a safer Chicago, we need to invest in health care, education, child care, and well-paying jobs – investments that have been proven to help stop violence before it happens.” it doesn’t start. I am ready to continue to fight alongside activists and organizers for the transformative change our communities deserve.
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