CHICAGO (CBS) — Civilians in Chicago will soon be able to file anonymous complaints against Chicago police sergeants, lieutenants, and captains, and CPD will be required to preserve all misconduct records involving supervisors, under an independent arbitrator’s ruling on Friday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced the independent arbitrator overseeing more than four years of contract talks with the union representing 1,500 police supervisors included significant changes to longstanding practices in how misconduct claims are handled against sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.

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The mayor called the arbitrator’s ruling a “historic step forward” in efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department.

“The arbitrators ruling that was announced is truly, nothing short of historic. It covers a number of issues that we’ve been fighting for literally for years. Many of us spent a significant amount of time on a range of issues, but in particular, really pressing that administration on police contracts and what was going to be the plan for these contracts and how would they be more true to the values of our city around policing,” Lightfoot said. “All of these gains reflect our values as a city, and a change we need in order to build the critical trust between our officers and the communities that they serve.”

Lightfoot, who chaired the Police Accountability Task Force under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has said police union contracts have been a major obstacle to making necessary changes at CPD. A 2016 report by the task force asserted police union contracts “essentially turned the code of silence into official policy.”

Under previous contracts, anonymous complaints against supervisors had been banned, and misconduct complaints were to be destroyed after five years. Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled misconduct complaints against rank-and-file officers must be preserved, stating the state’s public record laws trump union contracts requiring records be destroyed after five years.

According to the mayor’s office, prohibiting anonymous complaints against officers has discouraged people from reporting misconduct, out of fear of retaliation.

“For years, I have fought for reforms that would further ensure accountability and transparency at every level of the police department. As mayor, I have not only prioritized these efforts but doubled down on our reform commitments, which is why today’s ruling represents such a critical step forward in our path toward building a stronger police department and creating a safer Chicago for all,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Today’s historic win represents years of efforts to ensure our Chicago’s police union contracts represent the values of our officers and the residents they serve. We will continue fighting for these same reforms as well as other measures in our ongoing negotiations with the FOP.”

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The mayor said discussions with the Policemen’s Benevolent Association — which represents police supervisors — were civil, but her administration fought hard for the changes.

“This was a negotiation that was done with an eye towards building bridges, not tearing them down, and I want to emphasize that. These awards, as we move into the next phase, which is in negotiations with the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), and I hope that the FOP will actually follow the example of the PBA in bring the same spirit of collaboration,” Lightfoot said.  “Now, we’re going to have a lot of battles. There’s a lot of issues that we don’t agree on, and we’re going to absolutely press our case.” 

The arbitrator’s ruling could set a precedent for a contract for rank-and-file officers, should their negotiations go into arbitration, which has been standard for most FOP contracts. Rank-and-file officers represented by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police have been working without a contract for three years.

“The reforms won in the police supervisors’ contracts will serve as a roadmap for measures being pursued in the contract for rank-and-file officers as part of ongoing negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7,” Lightfoot’s office said.

In addition to allowing anonymous complaints against supervisors, and requiring misconduct complaints to be preserved, the independent arbitrator’s ruling requires that the name of a person filing a complaint against a police supervisor not be revealed to them until the accused is interviewed by investigators, which typically happens at the end of a misconduct probe.

The arbitrator’s ruling also requires police supervisors to provide details on any outside employment they might have, including where they work, and for how many hours. CPD also will be allowed to place a 16-hour cap on outside employment during any 24-hour period.

The three bargaining unions representing sergeants, lieutenants, and captains already agreed last year to a deal with the city for 10.5% raises over five years, covering 2018 through 2022. The City Council approved those raises last year.

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The arbitrator’s ruling on other matters in the supervisors’ contract must be ratified by the City Council, but is not subject to ratification by the supervisors’ union.