CHICAGO – City leaders on Wednesday approved a new layer of civilian police oversight after years of protests against officer misconduct.
The city council passed an ordinance calling for the creation of a seven-member community commission for public safety and accountability. The commission will be made up of people appointed by the boards of three members of Chicago’s 22 police districts.
The commission could vote to remove the chief administrator of the Civilian Police Accountability Office, which investigates shootings involving police and allegations of wrongdoing. The chief administrator would be removed from office if the city council approved it. The commission could also vote to dismiss the police commissioner, but the mayor could reject the recommendation.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, former Deputy U.S. Lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday that she was “more than happy to give our residents new opportunities to hold those who have sworn to protect and serve them accountable. “.
“Legitimacy is the key to our police work,” Lightfoot told city council. “If communities do not trust them because they are not legitimate to them, they will not be effective in their most basic mission, which is to serve and protect every resident of this city.”
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The 7-member commission will take effect January 1, 2022 and will be made up of Chicago residents, with no citizenship requirements or restrictions. The 3-member district councils will be elected by residents in a consolidated primary election, starting in February 2023.
Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said the ordinance had been in the works for “decades” and was largely carried out by local organizers. He said the movement for community policing was “revitalized” after the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old black boy who was killed by a white Chicago policeman who shot him 16 times.
The city released video of the shooting a year later, sparking outrage nationwide, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. The investigation found that the department is plagued by widespread racial prejudice, as well as excessive use of force, poor training and reckless supervision of officers accused of misconduct.
Lightfoot acknowledged that the order on Wednesday “will not solve all the problems.”
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” she said.