Aldermen Approve Plan For New Police Oversight Agency

CHICAGO (CBS) — After a long debate, the Chicago City Council has voted 39 to 8 to approve the structure of a new agency to investigate police shootings and allegations of officer misconduct.

Protesters chanted “hold the vote” as aldermen began to consider the ordinance creating the new Civilian Office on Police Accountability.

Some aldermen, like Leslie Hairston (5th), said the plan doesn’t go far enough to address the broken relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the public.

Hairston has said the ordinance gives the mayor and his administration too much power to hire and fire employees for COPA, and she said it doesn’t improve transparency when it comes to investigating allegations of police wrongdoing.

“Once again, it’s what the mayor wants, or nothing,” she said.

The alderman has introduced her own proposal to replace IPRA, and said the funding included in the COPA ordinance isn’t enough for the agency to do its job. The ordinance sets the new agency’s funding at a minimum of 1 percent of the Police Department budget, not including grant funding. That would put its minimum budget at about $14 million in 2017.

Hairston warned aldermen the Justice Department would order the city to start over. The Justice Department is in the middle of a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department and its policies and procedures when it comes to the use of force.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Carrie Austin (34th) noted many of the reforms proposed by Hairston and others were included in the ordinance championed by the mayor, and she said they’re needed now.

“I think that this body is intelligent enough to make decisions that will be beneficial for the entire city. We’ve got to start somewhere. So when do we start somewhere? We just did,” she said.

Both sides agreed Wednesday’s vote is just a start. The ordinance has been delayed several times as the mayor’s office has hammered out a compromise with aldermen and community groups.

One key measure that has yet to be decided is the structure of a civilian review board that will select the permanent leader for COPA. The mayor’s office has said that will come sometime next year. Until then, IPRA chief administrator Sharon Fairley will serve as COPA’s interim chief.

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