Group proposes civilian commission to oversee Chicago police

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The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, known as GAPA, made recommendations for Chicago police oversight. (WLS)

A grassroots organization introduced recommendations on Tuesday aimed at making Chicago police more accountable and improve relations between police and the community.

"Our proposed ordinance will create a seven-member civilian commission that oversees the police department, COPA and the police board," said Mecole Jordan-Grassroots, a spokeswoman for the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA).

GAPA was formed after the video release two years ago of the Laquan McDonald police shooting. The alliance, which is made up of a representatives from a broad coalition of community organizations, held community meetings for several months before making their recommendations.

The proposed civil commission would also have the power to hire and fire a Chicago police superintendent. Supt. Eddie Johnson is against the idea of giving a commission so much power.

"I have hope and confidence that once Supt. Johnson actually sits down with these folks and hears the proposals that he will recognize this is in the best interest of officers and himself," said Lori Lightfoot, president of the Chicago Police Board.

Lightfoot, who also chaired the mayor-appointed task force that issued a report calling for civilian oversight, said the process to fire will be rigorous and reasonable, not knee-jerk.

Chicago Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward), the sponsor of the ordinance creating the commission, said city council will have a say.

"There is also a safeguard, city council can override if the commission was ever terminated, so there is a city council provision in it that doesn't exist today," Osterman said.

GAPA members are open to debate and negotiations. They just don't want City Hall to ignore it.

"Any effort to stall it and not let it see the light of day .... I think will be met with extreme, extreme hostility and it will be taken out on them in February 2019 (when city elections take place)," Lightfoot said.

When asked on Monday about the civilian commission, Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged GAPA's hard work and pointed out the many police department reforms during the past two years. However, he did not say whether he supports the proposed commission.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, issued a statement blasting the civilian board.

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