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Groups Blast Rahm's Police Department Reforms

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 4, 2016 4:55PM

Chicago Police torture survivor Mark Clements speaks at a press conference supporting the proposed Civilian Police Accountability Council. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist.

As a joint Budget and Public Safety meeting of the City Council began the process of rubber-stamping Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed police accountability reforms this week, community groups and aldermen spoke out against the proposal, demanding that their own be heard.

“Here's a man who sat on incriminating evidence of one of the most horrendous murders in this city for 400 days and he gets a chance to parade in front of us as a social reformer, as someone who's going to bring police accountability to this city? We don't think so,” said Frank Chapman, of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which has proposed its own civilian accountability board. “He has no moral authority to do that.”

The Civilian Police Accountability Council would not only replace the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), but also the Police Board. In addition, CPAC would be in charge of hiring a police superintendent and investigating and prosecuting misconduct and shootings. Proponents argue Emanuel's appointed entity isn't that different from the much-maligned IPRA, and amounts to little more than window dressing.

“It creates a whole new system of police oversight,” said alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. “What we're asking for is a democratically elected body that would be able to not just discipline the police, but also set policies and determine how are communities are policed. This is true change and what the community wants.”

On Monday, Emanuel announced some minor changes to his Civilian Office of Police Accountability. According to the Sun-Times, COPA would get a guaranteed 1 percent of the Chicago Police Department's budget, and the new deputy inspector general for public safety, charged with auditing police practices and proposing changes, would also receive one.

Advocates for CPAC though, say the mayor has been ignoring their proposal.

“When the mayor doesn't want to see something brought up in committee, 9 times out of 10 it won't be brought up,” said Rosa. “The case here is one in which there's broad based community support for CPAC. However, when we go behind closed doors and talk about police oversight, many people don't want to talk about the community option, which is CPAC.”

CPAC proponents weren't alone in accusing the mayor of not paying attention to their calls, either. Speaking at a press conference just minutes after CPAC activists finished theirs, Alderman Leslie Hairston demanded a hearing for a proposal she has introduced to City Council twice.

“I'm asking for the Independent Citizen Police Monitor Ordinance I introduced in April and introduced last month to have a public hearing,” said Hairston. Hairston's proposal, co-sponsored by Alderman Jason Irving, establishes three police oversight entities—an eleven member Community Oversight Board, an Independent Citizen Investigator of the Police and Public Safety Office in the Inspector General's Office. Each branch would be separate from the Mayor's office and the Chicago Police Department, and collectively the three would investigate misconduct and provide community oversight.

“This ordinance provides the teeth that are necessary to enforce and do the things that are possible to create a culture of accountability and to let our police department know that there is someone looking over their shoulder,” Irving said.

The joint committee is expected to pass the measure this afternoon, which will then more than likely be passed by the full City Council on Wednesday.