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Chicago approves new level of civilian police oversight

Mayor Lori Lightfoot chairs a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

CHICAGO – City leaders on Wednesday approved a new layer of civilian police oversight after years of protests against officer misconduct.

The city council voted 36-13 to pass an ordinance calling for the creation of a seven-member community commission for public safety and accountability. The commission will be made up of individuals appointed by the councils of three members of Chicago’s 22 police districts and appointed by the mayor.

For decades, the Chicago Police Department has been besieged by allegations of misconduct and corruption, with many elected officials and civilians calling for reforms and new methods of holding the police to account.

Under the ordinance, the commission can vote to dismiss the police commissioner, but the mayor can reject the recommendation. When the post is vacant, the commission can appoint three people, but the mayor can select one or reject them all, which starts the process again.

The commission can also vote to remove the chief administrator of the Civilian Police Accountability Office, which investigates shootings involving police and allegations of wrongdoing. The chief administrator can be removed if the city council approves it.

Under the ordinance, the commission can draft new police policies, but the mayor can veto the policies. A two-thirds vote in city council could override the mayor.

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Dozens of people affiliated with a popular coalition of groups pushing for civilian police oversight gathered on Wednesday for a passage celebration outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

“We did it,” said Desmon Yancy, director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in Chicago, standing next to his son. “And we did it because we all played a part in it.”

Nate Sanders, with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, called the order “the first step in achieving the ultimate goal of ensuring public safety.”

“This kicks off the process of policing the communities that the police are supposed to keep safe. It is the first of its kind to give victims of police misconduct a voice over who can watch and how the police are conducted,” Sanders mentioned.

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.”

Ahead of the city council vote, Chicago Police Union president John Catanzara said the department was already under several levels of oversight from the city’s police board, the Civilian Police Accountability Office. , the internal affairs division of the Illinois Police Department. Office of the Attorney General.

“Another layer of oversight is just ridiculous. It will only make the brass instruments more (angry) because more oversight means, ‘You are doing something wrong. You have to be watched because you are not doing something right, “” he said.

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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 requirement. The 3-member district councils, which appoint the city-wide commission members, will be elected by the district residents in a consolidated primary election, starting in February 2023.

Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said the ordinance had been in the works for “decades”. 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.

Several aldermen also invoked the name of Adam Toledo on Wednesday. Toledo, 13, was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer one morning in March as he dropped a gun and turned to the officer with his hands raised.

Lightfoot acknowledged that the order on Wednesday “will not solve all the problems.” She added: “There is a lot more work to be done.”

Lightfoot, who took office in May 2019, initially pledged to pass an ordinance establishing civilian oversight of police in its first 100 days.

Contribution: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chicago Approves New Civilian Police Oversight Board

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