Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been pressured to keep her promise of a civilian police review

In March 2018, then-mayor Rahm Emanuel was warned he would face a furious political backlash if he refused to empower a civilian oversight board to fire the police chief and establish the police policy, or if he was trying to block a city council vote until after. the 2019 mayoral election.

Then-police board chairwoman Lori Lightfoot issued the warning – two months before declaring her candidacy for mayor – as she adopted the sweeping proposal drafted by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Lightfoot is the mayor concerned about passing her 2020 budget after enduring an 11-day teachers’ strike.

On Tuesday, the alliance held a press conference at City Hall to push Lightfoot — very gently — to approve the newly revised ordinance and finally deliver the civilian police review she has championed as co-chair of the Emanuel Task Force on Police Accountability.

“We have been negotiating in good faith for several months. Things have progressed well. [But] a lot of participants in the process feel the timing really matters,” said Adam Gross, director of justice reform and corporate and professional accountability for the public interest.

Noting that there is “a lot going on,” Gross said he was “not at all” worried that Lightfoot was wavering in his commitment to the civilian police review.

He noted that the search for a permanent replacement for outgoing Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson will move forward under the existing order, which requires the police board to conduct a nationwide search and recommend three finalists including the mayor must choose.

But, Gross argued, the city council still needs to approve the ordinance by the end of the year so Chicago can “bring in a superintendent who has been convinced since the beginning of this new approach.”

“There is also a process that needs to take place on a community-by-community basis once the ordinance is passed to educate people on what this changes, to get the widest possible buy-in, to encourage people to participate in the process. It’s going to take some time before there’s an election in November [2020]. So the sooner it passes,” the better, he said.

The order Gross helped draft is modeled after the civil review process in place in Los Angeles; Retired LA Police Chief Charlie Beck has been named Chicago’s acting superintendent.

“The whole policing system will be better off if there’s more community engagement and more community buy-in,” Gross said.

The mayor’s press secretary, Anel Ruiz, said the mayor’s top aides “continue to meet regularly with GAPA leaders to work on the proposed ordinance and are fully committed to passing it as quickly as possible. “.

“We support GAPA’s efforts to move this order forward, while balancing the need to maintain focus on other public safety priorities, including reducing violence, fully implementing our consent decree, and effectively managing a leadership transition at the Chicago Police Department,” Ruiz said in a statement.

The latest version of the ordinance calls for a commission of nine members, chosen by elected representatives from the 22 police districts. But it no longer gives this commission the absolute power to dismiss the police commissioner or to establish police policy.

Instead, the policy would be drafted by the Chicago Police Department and “reviewed and voted on” by the civilian commission.

Six of the nine members of the civilian commission could start the ball rolling on a change at the top of the CPD by taking a vote of no confidence in the superintendent. The final say on a superintendent’s dismissal would rest with a simple majority of the city council.

When a police commissioner is fired or retires, the Civilian Police Commission would conduct the nationwide search and recommend three finalists. The civilian commission would also recommend candidates to lead the civilian Office of Police Accountability and serve on the police board.

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