CHICAGO (CBS) — The chairman of the City Council Public Safety Committee on Friday vowed to hold a vote next month on proposals to create a civilian oversight board for the Chicago Police Department, a plan that has long been stalled amid a dispute with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over how much power the panel would have.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said he plans to hold a vote on civilian police oversight proposals on June 18, in time for a final vote by the full City Council on June 23.READ MORE: ‘We’re Not Asking, We’re Demanding:’ Advocates Advance Call For Civilian Oversight Group Over Police, COPA, Police Board, And Other Bodies
On Friday, supporters of the so-called “Empowering Communities for Public Safety” (ECPS) ordinance, which Lightfoot opposes, formally presented their proposal to the Public Safety Committee.
The ECPS ordinance is the result of a compromise reached between the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), which for years had been pushing competing plans for civilian oversight of CPD.
GAPA and CPAC joined forces earlier this year, months after Lightfoot pulled her previous support from GAPA’s plan, over a dispute over whether the mayor or a civilian oversight board should have final say on disputes over CPD policy.
“This is a reasonable compromise. It’s a compromise that has brought together two coalitions that represent over 100 organizations. It’s a compromise that brought together the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus, which it pains me to say doesn’t happen all too often in this City Council,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), one of the chief sponsors of the ECPS ordinance.
The ECPS ordinance would put a binding referendum on the ballot in 2022, asking Chicago voters to create an 11-member board — with nine elected members and two appointed by the board itself — empowered to hire and fire the police superintendent, set CPD policy, negotiate contracts with unions representing officers, and set the department’s budget – stripping away those powers from the mayor and the City Council, which Lightfoot vehemently opposes.
The mayor has said, because she “wears the jacket” for crime in Chicago, she’s not willing to essentially hand over control of CPD to a civilian oversight board.
If the referendum to create a civilian oversight board with total authority over CPD would fail, the ordinance would create a seven-member board with fewer regulatory powers over the department.
In that case, the board would still be able to set CPD policy, but the City Council would have the opportunity to veto such policies by a two-thirds vote.
Should the referendum fail, the ECPS ordinance would create a seven-member “Community Commission on Public Safety,” as the new civilian oversight panel for CPD. The ordinance also would establish three-member elected district councils in each of the city’s 22 police districts. The first election for the district councils would be held in the general election in November 2022, and after that would be held in the same year as Chicago municipal elections in 2027.
The councils would nominate candidates members of the Community Commission on Public Safety — two each from the North, South, and West Sides, and one at-large commissioner from any part of the city — who would ultimately be selected by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.
The commission would be empowered to hire and fire the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which handles investigations of police shootings and complaints of police misconduct.
The commission could also cast a no confidence vote against the CPD superintendent and Chicago Police Board members, which would trigger City Council hearings; and, if the City Council were to recommend their removal, the mayor would either have to remove them, or explain why not.READ MORE: Stalled Debate Over Civilian Oversight Of CPD Leads To Tense Exchange Between Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez
Meantime, members of the district councils would be tasked with working with residents and officers in their districts to develop local safety initiatives, hold public forums on policing in the district, craft various policing and restorative justice strategies, and make policy recommendations to the commission.
While the mayor adamantly opposes the ECPS ordinance, Lightfoot has said she still believes a civilian oversight board should have a say on CPD policy, and for months has said she plans to introduce her own citizen oversight plan, though she has yet to unveil one.
The mayor did not offer any specifics on what her plan would entail, but said she dropped her support for the original GAPA plan because it “didn’t solve a couple of key issues,” and said the ECPS ordinance has “significant gaps that have not been filled.”
“What you’ll see in the proposal that we put forward is really kind of taking the best of both GAPA and CPAC, and trying to move that forward,” she said.
Supporters of the ECPS ordinance accused Lightfoot of stalling efforts to enact civilian oversight of CPD and only promising to come forward with her own plan after a majority of aldermen threw their support behind a plan she opposes.
“The mayor has lost her right to lead, and offering a plan at the last minute – a plan that she has not the done the work of engagement that is required – is just a sign of how broken the system is,” said Martin Levine, a 48th Ward resident who called in for Friday’s committee meeting.
Taliaferro said he plans to hold briefings with aldermen over the next few weeks to discuss the ECPS ordinance as well as whatever the mayor’s office might introduce.
Ramirez-Rosa and other sponsors of the ECPS ordinance thanked Taliaferro for promising to finally hold a vote on proposals for civilian police oversight, after
“It’s the responsibility of the members of this committee and all the members of the City Council to act on civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. It is our elected responsibility that has been pushed off for far too long. Months and years have gone by without action on this,” said Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), who sponsored the original GAPA proposal and is among the backers of the ECPS ordinance. “I think it’s glaring that this is the only ordinance before us today, and I think that speaks volumes.”
Noting some aldermen are “still on the fence” on the issue of a civilian oversight panel for CPD, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said, “if you feel that your community cannot wrap their arms around this, we’ve got an even bigger problem with race relations here in the city of Chicago other than this ordinance.”
Earlier this week, Ramirez-Rosa filed a letter with the Chicago City Clerk’s office, announcing he planned to use a parliamentary maneuver at next week’s City Council meeting to force a vote on the ECPS ordinance, but he said he no longer plans to do so now that Taliaferro has publicly promised a committee vote next month.
Ramirez-Rosa said he hopes Lightfoot and the entire City Council will now come together to pass the ECPS ordinance in June.MORE NEWS: Activists Ramp Up Push For Civilian Oversight Of Chicago Police Department
“We don’t just want to pass this with 34 or 35 or so, we want to pass this with the support of everyone in the City Council. We want to come together and get civilian oversight done, so let’s do that,” he said.