CHICAGO (CBS) — Two City Council committees have endorsed the appointment of veteran criminologist Dr. Laura Kunard to a newly created post to help oversee efforts to reform the Chicago Police department.
“Police accountability has been the focus of my work for the last several years,” Kunard said at a joint hearing of the Public Safety and Budget committees on Monday.
Kunard, who has a Ph.D. in criminology, is a senior research scientist at CAN, a nonprofit group that works on Justice Department initiatives focused on law enforcement training and technical assistance.
She was a member of the Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which recommended reforms for police departments on the heels of several police-involved killings of black men in 2014, including Laquan McDonald in Chicago and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Kunard also was part of a team tasked with monitoring a federal consent decree outlining court-enforceable changes at the Albuquerque Police Department, after federal officials found officers had used deadly force more often than necessary, resulting in several unjustified fatal shootings.
She told aldermen she wants to help oversee reform of a police accountability system in Chicago that is unfair, inconsistent, and not trusted by the public.
Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has appointed Kunard to the new job of deputy city inspector general for public safety.
That position was created after Mayor Rahm Emanuel named a Police Accountability Task Force to recommend changes at the Chicago Police Department, and the mayor and City Council moved to eliminate the disparaged Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, and replace it with a new Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
“The current police oversight system is, in the words of the Police Accountability Task Force, a tangled patchwork. This underscores the confusing realities of police accountability in our system,” she said.
Some aldermen asked if Kunard understood that police officers need support, as well.
“Absolutely,” she responded.
“Without proper training, and without proper support mechanisms, that include an effective early-identification or early-warning system, effective first-line supervision, supervisors and role models that are effective mentors, effective counselors, and in getting officers the help and assistance and guiding and training that they need, that’s all very critical,” she said.
Kunard’s frank assessment of police accountability in Chicago rubbed Budget Committee Chair Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) the wrong way.
“I have to say it’s very disturbing to me that everybody that comes into a new part of our City Council, whatever our order of business is, you can always find fault with it. Nothing that we have done in the past has been any good, and you need, we need, I’m here to straighten it out. I really get tired of people saying that,” Austin said.
After a lengthy discussion, Kunard won easy committee approval. The full City Council will consider her appointment at their next meeting on April 19.
The city has yet to complete the transition to replace IPRA with COPA. Kunard’s job will be to audit the new police oversight system, and identify CPD patterns and practices that violate constitutional rights.