CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen on Tuesday revived long-stalled efforts to create a civilian oversight board for the Chicago Police Department, although it remains unclear if either of two competing proposals offered up has enough support from the City Council and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The City Council Committee on Public Safety met on Tuesday to accept the latest versions of two separate ordinances to create a civilian oversight agency, amid continued fallout from the wrong raid on Anjanette Young‘s home in February 2019.
One version would create a so-called Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) which supporters said would have the authority to set policies for the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Police Board, and Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). CPAC also would be responsible for negotiating CPD’s union contracts, overseeing COPA’s investigations of police misconduct, as well as disciplinary proceedings before the Chicago Police Board.
CPAC also would have the authority to hire the CPD superintendent, the chief administrator of COPA, and the members of the Chicago Police Board, but only with the advice and consent of the City Council. Unlike previous versions of the CPAC proposal, the latest proposal would not give the civilian oversight board final say on firing the CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, or Police Board members. Rather, the City Council would have final say on any such firings recommended by CPAC.
Meantime, a proposal negotiated with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) would create a so-called Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which would have less sweeping powers than CPAC.
The commission would be empowered to nominate candidates for CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, and Police Board members whenever there are vacancies. The mayor would then either choose one of the finalists to be confirmed by the City Council, or reject the candidates and seek a new list of finalists.
The commission also would be able to cast a vote of no confidence in the CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, or Police Board members, but a final decision on firing would be up to the City Council and the mayor.
Last March, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced she had reached an agreement with GAPA on their civilian oversight proposal, only to have that measure stall in a dispute over who would get final say on setting CPD policy.
The latest version submitted Tuesday would give the mayor final say on setting CPD, COPA, or Police Board policy whenever there is a dispute with the new oversight commission. The mayor would be required to explain in writing if she rejects policies initiated by the commission.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) said the next step in the bid for a civilian oversight board is to hold private briefings with aldermen later this month.
While only one of the ordinances likely will get a vote by the full City Council, either of them could undergo further revisions before any votes are held.
It’s unclear how soon any votes would happen, and for her part, Lightfoot said Tuesday that it’s more important to “get it right” than to pass something quickly.
“This is not easy work. If it was easy, we would have done it already, but I’m personally involved, and I’m confident that we will get to the right place and be able to present something to the City Council for a vote as soon as we are able,” she said.
The mayor also noted that, although discussions of a civilian oversight board have been going on for years, the Chicago Police Department is now under a court-enforced consent decree mandating a wide range of reforms meant to address systemic racism in the department, which complicates negotiations on civilian oversight.
“There’s a lot of different perspectives on that issue and what getting it right means. So there will be more conversations, and we’ve engaged in conversations with members of the City Council over the break about what that looks like,” Lightfoot said. “What’s most important is getting a structure that makes sense, that is reflective of true community oversight, but also is supportive of the work that must be done regarding the consent decree, and striking that balance is going to be important.”
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