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Retired Judge To Lead New Police Accountability Agency

 The main door to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability's offices in West Town.
The main door to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability's offices in West Town.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday named a retired Cook County judge to lead the newly formed Civilian Office of Police Accountability on an interim basis.

Patricia Banks, the former presiding judge of the Cook County Court Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division, will bring "critical and practical experience to the city as we implement the latest police reform measures,” Emanuel said in a statement.

Sharon Fairley, who launched the new agency on Sept. 15 to replace the beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority, resigned 11 days later to run for Illinois attorney general.

Fairley "led efforts to create a new police accountability agency that was meaningful mile-marker on the road to police reform, accountability and transparency," Emanuel said.

In addition, Emanuel announced that he would form a panel to help him pick a permanent leader for COPA, who must be confirmed by the Chicago City Council.

That panel will be led by Paula Wolff, the director of the Illinois Justice Project, and 30th Ward Ald. Ariel Reboyras, the chairman of the council's public safety committee.

Additional panel members will be named at a later date, Emanuel said.

The new agency was created by aldermen reeling from furor that enveloped the city after the release of a dashcam video showing a police officer fatally shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. It will start the clock ticking on the latest effort to hold Chicago police accountable for misconduct and close the book on IPRA.

COPA will have nearly twice the budget and nearly 40 more investigators than IPRA, which was criticized by the U.S. Justice Department for doing a poor job of investigating police misconduct and holding accountable officers who had been found to have committed wrongdoing.


The day before COPA launched, Fairley said she looked forward to working with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to craft a court-ordered agreement to reform the Police Department based on the Justice Department's findings. Madigan shocked the Illinois political world by announcing her plan not to run for another term.

That means if elected, Fairley would be in charge of the effort to craft a consent decree — since the Trump administration has washed its hands of reform push.

The new agency has about 20 vacant positions for investigators, Fairley said before the launch.

Hyde Park State Sen. Kwame Raoul and State Rep. Scott Drury of Highland Park have already announced they plan to run for attorney general. The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face attorney Erika Harold, a former Miss America and a Harvard Law School grad.