Police oversight discussed at Wright College
by KEVIN GROSS
Residents voiced their opinions on ordinances that would add varying degrees of civilian oversight of police at a hearing held Thursday, May 31, at Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.
"In 2016 the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) was approved, which replaced the former Independent Police Review Authority (IRPA)," Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th) said. "Under COPA there is no community oversight board, which was instituted prior to us doing this. Hence there are four new proposals that are being provided to produce ordinances under consideration." Reboyras held several community meetings on police oversight in the city.
More than 100 residents and aldermen attended the meeting, including Reboyras, aldermen John Arena (45th), who served as moderator, Gilbert Villegas (36th), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Deb Mell (33rd), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Harry Osterman (48th) and James Cappleman (46th).
"I don’t believe that civilians who are unfamiliar with police work or procedures should have any say … because they have a lot of time to overlook (police) decisions that are made in a split second," said resident Joan Love.
"I firsthand saw the injustice with the police department. I saw how they tortured my son, wrongfully convicted for 20 years of his life, and my life, because I had to fight for my son’s justice … and they later released my son on torture, but he’s still wrongfully convicted. How can somebody be wrongfully convicted?" said resident Annabel Perez, who supports an ordinance to create the Civilian Police Accountability Council.
CPAC would replace the existing COPA that investigates officer misconduct and the Police Board that dictates discipline, giving elected civilian commissioners control over officer investigations and discipline. It would additionally boast power over police policies and submitting the CPD budget to the Chicago City Council.
"The language of the legislation for COPA is identical to the language for IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority). Lets remember from 2007 to 2014, IPRA processed 400 cases of police officers shooting people in the City of Chicago, and they found only one of those 400 cases to have been without justification. Only God has that kind of perfection," said Joe Iosbaker, a committee member of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression that helped to draft the CPAC ordinance. "COPA has to go, the Police Board has to go, another rubber stamp, and internal affairs has to go, another rubber stamp."
The CPAC ordinance was introduced to the City Council by Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), and currently eight City Council sponsors including aldermen Ameya Pawar (47th) and Emma Mitts (37th) support the measure.
Ramirez-Rosa also recently voted as one of two aldermen against appropriating $95 million towards a new police academy, and said in an e-mail statement that he maintains a consistent posture of "addressing violence with meaningful investment in our neighborhoods via funding of mental health services, job programs, youth programs and education."
"What’s required is real accountability and community oversight of the police," he said.
Another ordinance was drafted with the help of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, which proposed the elected Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability with some civilian control over firing and nominating candidates for the police superintendent and heads of COPA and the Police Board, rather than eliminating the entities. The commission would set policy goals and evaluations of the superintendent and accountability offices but would have no direct role in officer investigations or discipline.
"Because of the things found by the Department of Justice and the Police Accountability Task Force, there are calls for investigations of the CPD," said GAPA coordinator Mecole Jordan.
"We also knew that we needed to make sure that we could touch day-to-day on district lines of community residents who are connected with their bases, as well as provide a system of support for police officers," said Jordan.
Aldermen Osterman and Roderick Sawyer (6th) first introduced the GAPA ordinance to the council, with Northwest Side aldermen Mell, Pawar and Christopher Taliaferro (29th) among its sponsors.
Public safety committee chairman Reboyras had since introduced two competing ordinances based on civilian-police oversight models in Seattle and Los Angeles, which feature appointed, unelected commissions in a more advisory role that would request the Public Safety Inspector General to investigate cases and boast no power over hiring and firing of the superintendent and the Police Board.
The two ordinances vary in commission size, term limits and required qualifications, and the mayor would appoint a third of the commission in the "Seattle ordinance" versus solely by City Council and other appointed members in the "LA ordinance."
The two ordinances garnered the most City Council support with 22 sponsors. Northwest Side aldermen Villegas, Taliaferro, Margaret Laurino (39th), Patrick O’Connor (40th), Milly Santiago (31st), and Emma Mitts (37th) have signed on to both ordinances.
"Ordinances that require support from City Council are broken, because our City Council for the most part has its (private parts) in a vice grip," a resident said.
Northwest Side aldermen Sposato and Anthony Napolitano (41st) have indicated that they do not support additional police oversight on any level.
"We already have internal affairs, COPA, the State Attorney General, the Cook County State’s Attorney. All of those places can be met with complaints, and they investigate those complaints. We have had many people who have been fired unfairly," said Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham, who instead proposed expanding responsibilities and support of volunteer citizen district advisory boards.