Local aldermen to focus on, choose among police reform options when City Council convenes

Ald.-elect Jeanette Taylor (20th) announces that she plans to push for approval introduce a bill to create approve legislation in support of a Civilian Police Accountability Council. (Photo by Owen M. Lawson)

Staff writer

CITY HALL — One key issue among the myriad issues the City Council faces is police accountability reform.

In a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday, Ald.-elect Jeanette Taylor (20th) pledged to try to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) once the body reconvenes. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is pushing ahead with her Independent Citizen Police Monitor proposal while Ald. Sophia King (4th) considers the various reform options on the table.

“I stand here today to say it’s a new day,” Taylor said. “We got a new mayor-elect. I got about 10 co-workers who want to see this change happen in Chicago. This 2019 election showed that the status quo is no longer acceptable. We’re in a space now where we can actually change policy in our community.”

CPAC, which supporters say has 15 votes lined up on the Council, would consist of elected representatives from each of Chicago’s police districts serving four-year terms. It would have the power to hire and fire the police superintendent and have wide policymaking and investigative powers, from officers’ contract negotiations to disciplinary action. It would have a $30 million budget.

“Too often in Black and Brown communities, we don’t receive justice. We live in communities where we’re constantly harassed by the police — there’s no such thing as community policing in my community — and so, at the end of the day, we’ve got to get to spaces where we are to be served as protected as other folks on the North Side of Chicago,” Taylor said.

At a post-election interview with the Herald on Monday, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she would draft an ordinance to create an Independent Citizen Police Monitor (ICPM) once the Council reconvenes.

It would be the second time for Hairston to propose the ICPM; her 2016 effort failed to pass the Council. That legislation would have created a new agency led by a Council-approved chief administrator chosen by a committee made up of civil, immigrant and LGBTQ rights advocates; someone from the faith community; a representative from the Chicago Plaintiffs’ Civil Rights Police Misconduct Bar; the mayor; the police superintendent and the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee chair or their chosen representatives.

Under Hairston’s 2016 proposal, the ICPM would have had 27 different investigative powers and duties with subpoena power, including civilians’ police complaints, crimes and misconduct committed by officers and all instances in which an officer fires a gun and situations in which a civilian dies or is injured. The ICPM would have pushed reports recommending policy modifications, and it could recommend disciplinary action. Action taken by the superintendent would have to meet the ICPM’s recommendation unless a panel accepted his or her rationale for administering a lesser disciplinary action.

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot advocates for a commission proposed by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), through which a community oversight board could fire a police superintendent.

“A lot of the people that got into office this time, we actually come from the movement. We’re not arguing what we’re against or what we think — we’re actually talking about what works in our communities, and we’ve actually talked to our constituents,” Taylor said when asked why she was supporting CPAC rather than one of the existing plans. “That’s who we’re beholden to.”

On Wednesday, Hairston said she was glad the CPAC press conference was “opening the conversation up again.” She said the Council will consider the ICPM, the CPAC and the GAPA plans when it meets after May 20 and that advocates for all three proposals have good intentions: “We’re not trying to pit one group against another.”

“It’s about opening up the conversation, because we were never able to have the conversation under the previous administration,” Hairston said. She said there is still legal analysis on ICPM to do before introducing the legislation; she has met with CPAC about their proposal and has supported the GAPA proposal in the past.

Asked for comment after Taylor’s press conference, Ald. Sophia King (4th) issued a statement: “Civilian oversight is an important recommendation from the consent decree which has the ability to build trust and transform the relationships between community and police. This should be a priority of the city council which I look forward to working on with my colleagues and the new administration.”

King’s office did not respond to a follow-up question on whether she would support CPAC, the GAPA plan or Hairston’s ICPM.