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Rahm Proposes A New Police Oversight Board To Replace Tarnished IPRA

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 31, 2016 4:42PM

Getty Images / Photo: Scott Olson

With fault lines remaining deep between police, many Chicago communities and his own administration, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday announced an ordinance that would create a new police-oversight agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Months in the works, the draft released late afternoon on Tuesday only roughly outlined COPA, which will replace the current agency, the much-criticized Independent Police Review Authority.

"Several months ago, we began the process to reform the entire police accountability system to ensure investigations of officers are independent, fair, timely and transparent,” Emanuel said in a statement. “The ordinance today is the result of a lot of hard work and significant community input. But the path forward will be about more than just the words on a page, it will be about implementation, culture and building community trust in the system of police accountability."

COPA’s primary tasks include misconduct investigation and making disciplinary or intervention recommendations. They will investigate allegations or excessive force, coercion and unlawful searches and seizures, among others.

The ordinance however does not go into specifics about a proposed Community Oversight Board, which will be introduced at a later date to allow for further public input, according to a release. The ordinance also fails to specify a permanent funding mechanism for COPA. Also unclear is how the head of COPA will be determined, although current IPRA head Sharon Fairley is expected to take the reins first, according to reports.

In addition to the IPRA-replacing COPA, the ordinance also calls for the creation of a new Public Safety Deputy. The office will be tasked with auditing the accountability agency, reviewing policy and procedures and liaising with the community. According to the ordinance as drafted, the Public Safety Deputy would be appointed by the Inspector General—who, as the Tribune points out, is selected by the mayor.

The City Council will vote on the ordinance on Sept. 29.

"While the critical importance of the functions established by the ordinance and the urgency of the issue dictates that we must address it expeditiously, it is also imperative that we continue to include the voice of all Chicagoans in the process," said Aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward) and Carrie Austin (34thWard) in a statement.

The Police Accountability Task Force in April recommended the abolishment of the IPRA, which has a wave of scrutiny for its long history of failure to punish police. The task force was instated just days after the release of the Laquan McDonald video, in which a 17-year-old black was seen fatally shot by police while appearing to walk away from officers. Supt. Eddie Johnson filed administrative charges on Tuesday to fire five officers involved in the shooting, including Jason Van Dyke, who now faces first-degree murder charges. In 2007, the IPRA replaced the Office of Professional Standards, the oversight panel that was dismantled amid its own criticism for failure to thoroughly investigate police misconduct.