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Aldermen, Activists Question Rahm's New Police Oversight Agency

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 14, 2016 7:16PM

By Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed replacement for the Independent Police Review Authority faced questions on Tuesday, with some aldermen wondering if the new agency will have enough authority or money to be effective.

"If we're going to do this correctly, we have to make sure it has all the components that are necessary," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), ABC reports. "Otherwise this is just an exercise in futility just to say something was done without having any real meaning."

Emanuel's Civilian Office of Police Accountability would replace the much-maligned IPRA, and would be responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct against the police. It would also create an inspector general that would be responsible for reviewing police practices.

“I’ve been at this job five years and there is nothing, at least in my tenure, which has come close to the kind of involvement and work that has gone into this ordinance,” Corporation Counsel Steve Patton told NBC5.

However, Emanuel's plan is still short on specifics, and there appear to be flaws. The proposal currently doesn't allow COPA to hire its own attorneys without involvement from the administration, and minimum funding levels remain a mystery. According to the Sun-Times, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) asked Patton if he had any numbers at all; but Patton would not commit. “Have there been numbers in your head?” asked Sawyer. “I’m not trying to commit you to a number. We really are trying to understand what kind of number we’re talking about.”

While the majority of City Council is entertaining Emanuel's proposal, activists who have been fighting for more police accountability for years say COPA doesn't go nearly far enough, and could be as ineffective as IPRA. “The Mayor is trying to hoodwink the people with a newly appointed police oversight body that continues to be unaccountable to the people,” said the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression in a press release Wednesday morning. The group has its own proposal for an elected civilian accountability board, which also would have the authority to appoint the police superintendent, investigate allegations of misconduct and dole out punishments. The group says it has nearly 40,000 signatures on a petition and the support of several alderman.

Emanuel is scheduled to speak to the City Council about COPA on Sept. 29th.