CHICAGO (CBS) — A drawn-out battle over plans to create a new public database of Chicago police officer misconduct files will drag on for at least another month, as aldermen try once more to come up with a workable ordinance, after the city’s top watchdog slammed the latest attempt at compromise as “will profoundly limit its transparency value.”
Several members of the City Council Finance and Public Safety committees on Monday balked at immediately voting on the latest version of the proposed database, given that they received the latest changes to the ordinance Sunday night, less than a day before the scheduled vote.READ MORE: Weekend Guests At Six Flags Great America Say Crowds, Closed Rides, Huge Fight Involving 20 People Ruined Their Experience
Many also questioned moving forward with a plan to require the city’s Office of Inspector General to create and maintain the database after Inspector General Joseph Ferguson criticized the latest plan last week as insufficient.
“That, to me, is a reason for me to say ‘we’re not done yet,’ because if OIG Is not on board, and they’re the ones that have to implement this thing, then shame on us, because that’s basically just us jamming something down people’s throat, and I’m not in the business of doing that,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th).
Finance Committee Chair Scott Waguespack (32nd), one of the two chief sponsors of the ordinance, ultimately decided not to call for a vote on Monday, and said he would try again to find a consensus with Ferguson’s office, which had supported a more sweeping plan that Lightfoot opposed before working out a watered down compromise with Waguespack and Public Safety Committee Chairman Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th)
“I don’t know where the middle ground is, because essentially they have decided anything less than what we want is not gonna fly,” Waguespack said. “So frankly I’m just going to have to go back and grind it out again.”
A spokeswoman for Ferguson’s office said, while they were not invited to attend Monday’s committee meeting, they “look forward to working with our City partners to pursue meaningful reform.”
“OIG is deeply committed to rendering transparent the City’s handling of allegations of police misconduct. We are encouraged by the fact that the version of [the ordinance] which was introduced today partially addressed some of the concerns which we raised about the version that was publicly announced last week,” spokesman Natalie Kuriata said in an email.
Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Waguespack, and Taliaferro announced they had agreed to a deal to create an online database of closed police misconduct complaints dating back to 2000, instead of 1994 as the original plan entailed.
That compromise also would have included less information from police misconduct cases than aldermen first proposed.
Originally, the ordinance would have required the inspector general’s office to include the entire case file of all closed misconduct complaints, but the compromise aldermen have agreed to would include summary reports, including the complaint number, complainant or notification type and category, names of the accused officers, the name of the investigating agency, and the final disposition of the case.
The revised ordinance also would prohibit the database from including reports on any disciplinary cases involving “incidents of domestic abuse, child abuse or substance abuse.”
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has criticized the latest proposed database, saying last week the compromise reached by the mayor and aldermen “is a significantly smaller step, in scope and scale” than the original plan.READ MORE: Massive Chemical Plant Fire In Rockton, Illinois, Could Burn For Days
Ferguson said the changes to the original ordinance “have the effect of fundamentally altering the scope and scale of the public resource which would result from its enactment, and profoundly limit its transparency value.”
Waguespack said, after Ferguson’s office raised concerns about the compromise reached with Lightfoot, he was prepared to go back and make changes to address the inspector general’s concerns, but “The next thing I knew, there were op-eds and commentaries basically saying we don’t support this at all before I had the chance to go back and make amendments or try to do another back-and-forth.”
The inspector general claimed the deal between the aldermen and Lightfoot meant the database would not include cases investigated by the Independent Review Authority (IPRA) and the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), the predecessor agencies to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), the office currently tasked with investigating police shootings and claims of police misconduct. He also criticized a provision he claimed would limit the database to complaints only in which “disciplinary recommendation” had been rendered by an oversight agency.
However, Waguespack said that was never the intent of the compromise, and the ordinance was amended in recent days to make clear that cases investigated by IPRA and OPS would be included in the database, along with COPA cases; and that the database include all cases in which the investigation resulted in “a fïnding of sustained, not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated.”
Waguespack accused Ferguson of “going nuclear” on the deal he and Taliaferro made with Lightfoot without understanding their position, and without offering to go back to the table before a vote.
“I really had a frustrating experience with that,” Waguespack said.
But there remains some resistance to the latest database proposal even among some aldermen who see it as insufficient.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she was disappointed with the latest changes, saying there appeared to be a consensus among aldermen only last month on the original plan.
“What has come now is a watering down of it, and then now we’re supposed to automatically just co-sign and just take something? No, it is not enough,” she said. “I am asking my colleagues to please grow a pair and do the right thing.”
Earlier Monday, Lightfoot had championed the compromise as “historic” for the city, saying for the first time ever, more than 20 years of police misconduct files would be made easily available for the public to review.
“It has never happened before in the city of Chicago. So there are gonna be people who say whatever they’re going to say, but the fact of the matter is it’s through leadership and collaboration and cooperation we’re putting 20 years worth of CR [complaint register] information out on a publicly available digitized – you can search it – website,” She said. “So I don’t want that accomplishment to be diminished by some who are yapping around the margins about it doesn’t do this or it doesn’t do that. Tell me any other time in the history of the city that we’ve done that, and the answer is never.”MORE NEWS: Mayor Lori Lightfoot Names José Torres As Interim Chicago Public Schools CEO
It’s unclear how soon aldermen could come back to vote on the misconduct database plan. Waguespack said he would bring it back “when it’s appropriate” after further discussions with his colleagues and Ferguson’s office.