The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Aldermen Strive To Fill Key Gaps In Police Reform Package

By Ted Cox | September 13, 2016 5:43pm
 A still from the dashcam video of Laquan McDonald being shot by a police officer. The incident led to calls to reform the Chicago Police Department.
A still from the dashcam video of Laquan McDonald being shot by a police officer. The incident led to calls to reform the Chicago Police Department.
View Full Caption

CITY HALL — Aldermen forged ahead with a police reform ordinance on Tuesday that could be voted on as soon as Sept. 29

Corporation Counsel Steve Patton addressed a joint Budget and Public Safety Committee meeting, laying out the proposal for Police Department reform submitted last month by the Emanuel administration.

Patton said the ordinance would create a Civilian Office of Police Accountability, in charge of all Police Department investigations of misconduct, as well as a public-safety inspector general within the Office of the Inspector General — two of three key recommendations from the Task Force on Police Accountability appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this year.

Patton granted that the reform package did not yet establish a separate civilian oversight board, the key third element the task force identified, and it did not set a process for appointing a chief administrator of COPA, nor did it set a budget for any of these new positions or agencies.

 Ald. Carrie Austin is pressing for a vote on police reform Sept. 29.
Ald. Carrie Austin is pressing for a vote on police reform Sept. 29.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"That is an addition that needs to be made," Patton told aldermen. "We will work closely with you to draft a second ordinance."

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) called police reform "a work in progress," adding, "Although this is an urgent matter, we need to make sure we do it right."

"It's better than what we have," said G. Flint Taylor, of the People's Law Office, on Emanuel's initial reform proposal, but he added that much needed to be worked out.

Without community involvement, Taylor said, "we'll be right back where we were in 2007," when the Independent Police Review Authority replaced the Office of Professional Standards without really addressing reform. "Those changes never amounted to much. There wasn't a commitment to the change," Taylor said, and now IPRA needs to be replaced.

"The important thing here is community input," Taylor said, "particularly the communities that are most impacted by police brutality, and of course that's the African-American communities, that's the Latino, Hispanic communities."

During Tuesday's hearing, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) submitted a substitute to her earlier proposal to create a civilian oversight board. Hairston said that was her attempt to fill the gaps in the Emanuel administration's proposal.

"The administration's position is ignore it and it will go away," Hairston said. "We're going to make sure it has all the components that are necessary. Otherwise, this is just an exercise in futility."

Hairston said her proposal sets out the creation of a civilian oversight board, but also sets standards for investigations into police misconduct.

"It also allows the people to hold the power, and not give the power to the Mayor's Office," she added.

Hairston's proposal is in competition with the Civilian Police Accountability Council, proposed by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression and sponsored in the Council by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), chairman of a subcommittee on police accountability and reform, said the CPAC proposal was backed by a plurality of about 40 percent of the 425 people who attended seven public hearings on the issue, five held in neighborhoods across the city.

Taylor backed both ideas, saying, "Those are both very, very serious attempts to look at this issue."

"I am not going to go away," Hairston said. "As it stands now, this is totally unacceptable."

The local Fraternal Order of Police union also took issue. Union lawyer Brian Hlavin insisted, "I have not seen what's before you," adding that, because police were not consulted on issues of importance to them in the ordinance, "it's my assumption our concerns have fallen on deaf ears."

"The reason we are here in this chamber," Hairston countered, "is because of a young man named Laquan McDonald." She went on to cite the $500 million paid to settle in police brutality lawsuits and the legacy of notorious Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the Budget Committee, said plans were to move forward with the Emanuel administration's proposal with a vote set for Sept. 29.

A later measure addressing the separate civilian oversight board should follow in the months ahead, according to Patton. While the Council is settling on how to appoint a COPA chief administrator, he added, IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley will stay on to assure investigations continue.

Lori Lightfoot, president of the Police Board and the Task Force of Police Accountability, backed that approach, as long as as COPA and the public-safety inspector general were granted a sufficient budget and independent counsel in an amended ordinance. The community board, she said, could follow.

Lightfoot added, "The challenge is going to be how to populate that board."

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here:

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: