Civilian police examine compromise reached over Lightfoot objections


Mayor Lori Lightfoot was spared a bitter political defeat on Friday on the crucial issue of civilian police oversight by the narrowest margins.

By a 10-9 vote, the Public Safety Committee refused to consider a last-minute compromise worked out without input from the mayor who would give a civilian oversight committee the final say on police political disputes.

About an hour before the vote, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) predicted the votes would be there to endorse the stricter monitoring order over Lightfoot’s vigorous objections after supporters agreed to ‘split’ a binding referendum which, if passed, would give the civilian panel even broader powers.

“We know we do not have the votes on the Public Safety Committee to pass this referendum. But we have enough votes to pass the parts of the ordinance that do not include the referendum, ”Ramirez-Rosa said.

“We therefore agreed this morning to withdraw the referendum from the ordinance voted today. And that should give us more than a majority in the committee to pass this. “

But the president of the Public Security Commission Chris Taliaferro (29th) refused to consider the compromise distributed to the aldermen only 30 minutes earlier.

When Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) presented a motion to table the consideration of the new compromise, Taliaferro called for a roll-call vote which went 10-9 against the consideration of the compromise.

“We waited four years to vote on this issue. … A majority of the city council is on board, ”said a disappointed Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), City Council champion for civilian oversight.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th)
Sun-Times file

Taliaferro said he opposed the immediate consideration of the compromise because he “shouted from the rooftops” for supporters “to withdraw the referendum and you will have support”.

“Nobody listened” until Friday, said Taliaferro.

Taliaferro also condemned what he called the “threats, intimidation and harassment” by supporters of civilian police surveillance who show up at the aldermen’s homes, “smear things in front of their doors” and put their spouses and their children “in danger”.

“I can’t stand this type of driving. … This is not democracy at its best. Democracy protests peacefully, ”said Taliaferro.

The committee then voted 9-8 against a motion to adjourn until Monday and consider the compromise at that time. This paved the way for the aldermen to review the mayor’s ordinance, which lacks support, and the old version of the civil review which was superseded by the compromise.

Then Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) moved another adjournment motion. He was accepted.

Lightfoot’s plan for civilian police oversight does not include the broad policy-making, budgeting, hiring and firing powers she promised during the mayoral campaign.

Instead of allowing the seven-member commission she proposed to create to choose the Chicago Police Commissioner, Lightfoot would retain this coveted power for herself and future mayors.

Ald.  Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th)
Sun-Times file

Ramirez-Rosa championed the more extreme version of civilian oversight proposed by the Civilian Police Accountability Council before helping to forge the compromise with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.

The new compromise gives the Civilian Oversight Commission the final say in disputes over police policy.

The panel would also be empowered to take a vote of no confidence in the Chicago Police Commissioner who could set the stage for the removal of the top cop if city council agrees by a two-thirds vote, he said.

“The mayor was not part of these conversations. She had the opportunity to work with the coalition on meaningful civilian oversight. The order she introduced was not a serious proposal for civilian oversight, ”Ramirez-Rosa said.

“His staff contacted us earlier this week and didn’t put anything on the table. All they said was, “Do you want to defer the vote? How many times has the vote been postponed? How many years? It is time to pass this ordinance.

Like Lightfoot, Taliaferro argued that the mayor should have the final say in disputes over police policy and the fate of the Police Commissioner.

“It should be the mayor’s authority to hire and fire the superintendent, the police board and the COPA administrator. If she wants to take the blame for any good or bad that is going on in the police department, she must be able to hire and fire the general manager of those offices, ”Taliaferro told The Sun-Times last month.

“I can’t imagine being the mayor of a municipality and you have no say in the direction of the police department.”

Lightfoot campaigned on a promise to empower a civilian oversight committee to hire and fire the police superintendent and have the final say in disputes over police policy.

Civilian oversight was a key recommendation of the Police Accountability Task Force which she co-chaired in the fury following the court-ordered release of video of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

After the election, Lightfoot changed her mind, just as she did in her support for an elected school board bill approved by Illinois House this week despite her vigorous objections.


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