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82 Percent Jump In Police Accountability Budget Not Enough, Alds. Say

By Heather Cherone | November 1, 2017 1:52pm | Updated on November 1, 2017 5:40pm
"I'm going to plead new," said COPA Administrator Patricia Banks when asked about concerns about COPA's budget.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

CITY HALL — The proposed budget for the newly launched Civilian Office of Police Accountability is set to jump 82 percent next year as officials vow to hold Chicago police accountable for misconduct and restore Chicagoans' trust in the Chicago Police Department.

Former Cook County Judge Patricia Banks — picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lead the new police accountability agency on an interim basis — told aldermen reviewing the agency's $13.29 million budget that it was sufficient "to do the job we have been asked to do."

However, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), the chairman of the council's Progressive Reform Caucus, called for the budget to be increased — noting that the ordinance that created COPA last year required that its budget be no less than 1 percent of the Police Department's budget.

"This budget is more than $1 million short," Waguespack said.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said the missing funds could "make or break your ability to carry out your mission" and win the the trust of the community.

"We need to put our money where our mouth is," Lopez said.

During the hearing, Banks said she could not answer questions about the apparent discrepancy, and asked aldermen to contact the mayor's budget office.

After the hearing, Banks said she could not comment on the issue.

"I'm going to plead new," said Banks, the former presiding judge of the Cook County Court Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division, adding that she would work to ensure the agency "gets its fair share."

Molly Poppe, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said the actual amount of money that will be spent on the agency is $17.5 million, when you include benefits for employees and money from other funds. That means the proposed budget is actually higher than the minimum set by the ordinance, she said.

"COPA's 2018 budgeted expenses are $17.5 million, approximately 1.15 percent of the Police Department’s budgeted appropriation in 2018 for all local funds (corporate and enterprise funds) and in line with the commitment we made when we created COPA," Poppe said in a statement.

The figures cited by Lopez and Waguespack only include the city's corporate fund, which is used to fund most discretionary expenses.

In addition, Banks told aldermen that she was also not sure where efforts stood to create a civilian oversight board to keep tabs on the police accountability board.

COPA will have four satellite offices in addition to its headquarters in West Town but specific locations have not been identified, Banks said. Several aldermen encouraged her to ensure those offices open on the South and West sides.

Emanuel tapped Banks Oct. 3 to lead COPA after Sharon Fairley — who launched the new agency on Sept. 15 to replace the beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority — resigned to run for Illinois attorney general.

When he appointed Banks, Emanuel formed 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 Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), the chairman of the council's public safety committee.

Additional panel members have not been named.

Aldermen created COPA in 2016 while the city reeled from the release of a dashcam video showing a police officer fatally shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. It replaced the beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority.

COPA has 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 agency still has 17 vacant positions for investigators and three vacant supervisor positions, Banks said.