CITY HALL — Two aldermen are joining forces in an effort to seize the initiative on Police Department reforms.
Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jason Ervin (28th) are combining their previous proposals to provide oversight for the Police Department, and they plan "several" meetings over the coming weeks along with the Progressive Reform Caucus.
"The two ordinances are not in competition," Ervin emphasized Wednesday at City Hall. "They complement one another. It establishes a framework for review and auditing of what's happening in the Police Department."
Both proposals seek to follow through on suggestions made by the Police Accountability Task Force. Hairston's would abolish the Independent Police Review Authority and replace it with a public-oversight agency under a so-called independent civilian police monitor.
Ervin's, meanwhile, would empower the city's inspector general to audit and review police practices to strengthen accountability and economic efficiency.
"Hairston's proposal deals with first-level review," Ervin said. "My ordinance deals with secondary and tertiary reviews," conducted by the Office of the Inspector General.
Ervin cited how IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley has invited Inspector General Joe Ferguson to have input on her agency's probe of the Laquan McDonald case, and said that practice should be extended to all department reviews.
"That's something that we think they should do on their own," he added. "They shouldn't have to be invited in." Instead, Ervin said, Ferguson should have the same right to probe the Police Department as he has with "every other department in the city."
Ervin said, "There'll be several public hearings," starting with one already scheduled by the City Council's Progressive Caucus at 6:30 p.m. July 21 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., in Conference Hall A 1108.
Aldermen Carrie Austin (34th) and Ariel Reboyras (30th), heads of a joint Budget and Public Safety Committee considering police reforms, said last week they'd be holding at least four regional meetings on the North, South, West and Southwest sides. Yet while they said they hoped to have a "package" of police reforms ready by September or October, they have yet to announce any of those meetings.
"Given the enormity and seriousness of this problem, it is unreasonable to think that real reform can take place in a day or two," Hairston said. "This is going to take time, and we have to take the time in order to get it right."
Ervin and Hairston said they'd be seeking public feedback to refine their proposals and arrive at a final ordinance to be submitted to the City Council.
Ervin said their meetings would differ from the public meetings the Department of Justice has been conducting in the city as part of its probe of the Police Department.
"What they're trying to do is get as much public information as possible" on public complaints about the police, he said. "We see the problems. We want to find out some solutions."
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