Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot releases police oversight commission proposal

(CHICAGO) — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has released a highly anticipated civilian police oversight proposal that would create an independent seven-member citizen panel to advise the city’s police operations.

The 17-page proposed ordinance was released Monday and would create a citywide Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability consisting of seven appointed members. Lightfoot said the proposal will overhaul how police are “overseen, managed and held accountable when necessary,” in a press release.

The panel would oversee community input on the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Board. The proposal also calls for small elected councils for each of the city’s 22 police districts.

Under the proposal, the commission would only have advisory power and would conduct research and audits, propose budgets and review officer conduct.

The citizen panel would assess the performance and set goals for the police superintendent, chief administrator and police board president and collaborate with CPD, COPA and the Police Board to develop or amend policies. It could also pass a no confidence vote against the police superintendent, whose hiring the commission would help handle.

Under current guidelines, the police superintendent is appointed by the recommendation of the police board. The proposal lays out a new process for choosing a police superintendent: The new commission would present three candidates to the mayor, who would then pick a finalist for aldermen on the city council to consider and approve.

With the proposed plan, Lightfoot would have more power in hiring police superintendents and making other key decisions.

“The relationship between the mayor and the police superintendent is critically important, so we have a process by which these candidates will be vetted through the commission,” Lightfoot said in an unrelated press conference Monday. “The commission will make recommendations, but yes, because the buck stops with me, I will ultimately as mayor and any other subsequent mayor, be making that decision.”

There’s currently a similar civilian police oversight proposal that was introduced in the city council. That other proposal, the Empowering Communities for Public Safety plan, was presented to the Public Safety Committee last week by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

That plan calls for Chicago citizens to vote on a referendum to create an 11-member civilian board that would have more authority than the commission Lightfoot’s plan proposes. Under the Empowering Communities for Public Safety plan, the board would have authority to hire and fire the police superintendent and would submit the CPD budget and negotiate contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Members of the council’s Public Safety Committee will have hearings on the two ordinances and send one to the full council for a vote in June.

Lightfoot’s office said her proposal embraces recommendations made by the Police Accountability Task Force, the creation of which was led by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, and added that it comes after years of conversations with aldermen, advocates and experts.

The proposal has sparked backlash among local lawmakers, including Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

“For the mayor to come at this late juncture, with a proposal that is just a veneer of civilian oversight, I think it’s an insult to the community groups. I think it’s an insult to all of the folks that have been diligently working for true civilian oversight and police accountability reform,” Ramirez-Rosa said, according to ABC’s Chicago station WLS-TV.

CPD Superintendent David O. Brown has said he won’t comment on police oversight efforts until one is finalized.

“I won’t weigh in on the debate between the city council and the mayor before it’s settled,” Brown said in a press conference Monday when asked about the proposals to establish a police oversight committee.

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