New Police Oversite Agency Needs Own Attorneys, Mandated Budget, Aldermen Say

CHICAGO (CBS) — At a lengthy City Council hearing, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton tried to reassure doubters that Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are ready for reform, police reform, with an ordinance that “…represents a careful balance between increased public oversight, transparency and accountability on the one hand, and protecting the right of individual officers.”

COPA, the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability, will replace IPRA, the Independent Police Review Authority. But as CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley reports, critics point out there’s no provision for COPA, that will enable it to hire its own, outside lawyers, which would force them to use city attorneys.

“You’ve got them representing the police department and then you’ve got them representing the prosecutor. That’s a conflict of interest on its face,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz of the 22nd Ward.

No provision, either, for COPA, or the new police inspector general, to have a mandated budget, isolating both from mayoral pressure.

“Without a funding source, this is just a hollow ordinance,” Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward, says.

The law department insisted both concerns are being addressed.

“Those solutions will be included in a revised version of this ordinance,” Patton said.

But critics see COPA as strictly under the mayor’s control, not the community’s.

“It is the same. We did that with OPS, we did that with IPRA, and now we’re doing this with whatever this is, COPA,” Hairston added.

And some are upset, because there’s no provision in the ordinance for a civilian oversight panel. That’s being delayed for months, City Hall says, so that more community input can be gathered.

Civil Rights lawyers like Flint Taylor and others say members of that board can’t be picked by the mayor or there will be no true citizen’s oversight.

The COPA ordinance is scheduled for a vote later this month.

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