Lightfoot explains why she blocked the civilian police review
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been accused of abandoning the police reform she championed – by repeatedly derailing a City Council showdown over the volatile issue of civilian police review.
On Thursday, the mayor offered her most detailed explanation yet of why she blocked those rival proposals.
“This will be one of the most important policy decisions made by the city of Chicago in decades. … Truly recalibrating the relationship between the people and the police,” Lightfoot said during a virtual justice reform panel. criminal sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley.
“We have to get it right…so we are putting these proposals in place to succeed, not fail.”
Lightfoot argued that two proposals pending civilian police review awaiting a vote by the Council’s Public Safety Committee had “significant holes in them”.
Critical questions left unanswered, she said, include “governance structure” and “questions about policy and who makes these decisions?”
“Call me stupid, but I believe that public policy, when put to a vote and going to become the law of the land, cannot be with a lot of key decisions to be determined – to be decided later. They must be decided now. They need to be debated in a public forum and not have a tick box circumstance where we say we do something but leave a lot of the hard work to decide later,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot did not explain why she insisted on retaining the power to sever disputes when she and the commission disagree over proposed changes to police policy. She also did not explain why she objected to the civilian council being allowed to vote in an advisory vote of no confidence in the police commissioner – a vote that would trigger the commissioner’s dismissal if both thirds of the Council were then voting for impeachment.
She said only that the civilian police review must include a “wide variety of community voices” and be done “in harmony with the police department” because “the police department as a failure means that our city failed. It means our neighborhoods are not safe.
“More difficult to do in practice than in theory,” she said.
Last month, Lightfoot lobbied Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) to postpone a showdown vote on the civilian police review to give him time to introduce a replacement order.
The next day, two groups that have long pushed for different versions of the civilian police review ratcheted up the pressure on the mayor by saying they were now working with the support of 40 of Chicago’s 50 aldermen.
This means Lightfoot is headed for a showdown vote that she could lose.
As the former chairman of the police board who co-chaired the police accountability task force, Lightfoot demanded that then-mayor Rahm Emanuel authorize a civilian oversight board to fire the director of the police. police and to establish police policy. She promised to hand over this commission within the first 100 days of her tenure.
As she approaches midterm, she is still nowhere near delivering on one of her most important campaign promises.
On Thursday, the mayor insisted she didn’t hesitate.
“We need to have civilian oversight of the police because if we don’t, then the primary mission of the police to serve and protect communities will be done without the legitimacy that will be needed for them to succeed in that mission. …to keep everyone safe – no matter the zip code, no matter the neighborhood,” Lightfoot said.
As for the Chicago Police Department‘s painfully slow compliance with a federal consent decree, Lightfoot argued that it was one thing to “check the boxes” of court warrants, but quite another to change “the hearts, minds and culture” of a well-established institution.
“Very hard to do from the outside in. That’s one of the biggest challenges of consent decrees. You have a group of people from the outside trying to force a cultural change on an institution who is comfortable with their culture,” the mayor said.
“How do you get membership? How do you disrupt this culture? How to change the status quo? That should be the job of the Consent Decrees. And unfortunately the way a lot of them have been built over the years, they don’t seem to recognize that fundamental conundrum that really is the key to making a difference.