CITY HALL — An often contentious City Council committee meeting Thursday included one alderman lashing out at the head of the Chicago Police Board and the head of the cop union saying the agency that investigates officer misconduct is unqualified.
As a joint City Council committee held a second day of hearings on police accountability, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the Budget Committee insisted the hearings were "legitimate."
Austin lashed out at Lori Lightfoot, head of the Chicago Police Board and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointed Police Accountability Task Force, for echoing comments made Wednesday that the hearings were "a farce."
"I can guarantee you they are not a farce," Austin said, adding that the people didn't elect her "to do farceness."
First citing Lightfoot indirectly and then by name, Austin called her comments "a disservice to all 50 of us" in the City Council, adding, "She can go straight to Hades."
The joint committee ultimately moved Thursday to create a handful of subcommittees to hold public meetings on police accountability on the North, South, West and Southwest sides, and perhaps elsewhere if necessary.
Those meetings will address five key topics, three of which are the Independent Police Review Authority, the makeup of a civilian oversight board to potentially replace IPRA and the potential appointment of an auditor or public-safety inspector general to oversee the entire system.
Dean Angelo Sr., president of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, questioned not the legitimacy of the aldermen but of the Independent Police Review Authority, a prime source of contention in the hearings as aldermen seek to find a way to replace IPRA with something more efficient and responsive to community needs in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case.
Angelo charged that IPRA was "overreaching" and "in direct violation of state law" because it did not have state-authorized investigators to conduct police probes on the use of deadly force. Angelo insisted such investigators have to be sworn officers with the experience and training to conduct such probes.
"Why do they have to have that experience when the Police Department is the reason we're where we are now?" Austin said.
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, insisted state law allowed investigations that aren't conducted by sworn officers.
Angelo said any change in police oversight would have to be more than cosmetic. "If IPRA changes and keeps the same people, you're going to have the same concerns," he said, charging that was true in the transition to IPRA from the earlier Office of Professional Standards.
Ald. Milly Satiago (31st) urged Angelo to be ready to accept some form of reform, saying, "If we continue to protect and defend bad cops, nothing is going to change."
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) asked for a more open and evenhanded debate, saying the issue is not just "pro and con police."
"We just need to be more rational and stop retreating to our corners," Pawar said.
Pawar also took issue with a so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance proposing to treat offenses against officers as hate crimes. He said that conversation is "headed nowhere good."
Activist Frank Chapman, of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, was adamant about the need for a Civilian Police Accountability Council.
"We need community control of the police," Chapman said. "And we're not going to accept less than that. We know it's gonna be a fight."
He called for "democratic control of the police" in order to end "police tyranny," and insisted on referring to "police crime, not misconduct."
Chapman added, "Murder is a crime. Laquan McDonald was a murder."
Chapman called for democratic reform and charged the committee was "trying to do it by legislative fiat with as little community involvement as possible."
"This process is legitimate," Austin said.
"Not in my view," Chapman responded.
Moving on a motion by Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), the joint committee finally moved Thursday to create three subcommittees to hold regional hearings.
Reboyras suggested the meetings would begin later this month, then report back to the joint committee for preparation of the final police reform package.
The mayor, however, said Thursday he'd prefer the reform package be prepared ahead of final public hearings.
It would make most sense to have additional hearings after officials craft the ordinance, Emanuel said in an appearance on the Northwest Side. “Everyone wants the same thing,” Emanuel said. “Residents want oversight of the police that they can have confidence in, and police officers want certainty about the system.”
There is no dispute, however, that the way police officers are held accountable for their actions must change, Emanuel said.
“We need oversight of the police department so people can have confidence in our officers,” Emanuel added, noting that he was speaking on a street in Dunning where several officers live. “We have a good police department with officers who do their job and do it well."
"There'll be a process," Reboyras said. "It'll be a little while. It'll take some work."
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