Council rejects arbitration for Chicago Police Department officers involved in serious misconduct

Thursday, February 15, 2024
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The City Council is setting up a showdown with Chicago police after voting Thursday to reject arbitration for officers involved in serious misconduct.

It came after some passionate debate.

Thursday's City Council meeting was fraught with accusations of political agendas countered by calls for better transparency and accountability for officers behaving badly.

In the end, transparency triumphed.

It is an issue that has the Council sharply divided: the best way to handle the most serious police misconduct cases.

The options are before the police board, which deliberates cases in closed session, or through an arbitrator, where cases are handled behind closed doors.

"This push to move hearing to arbitration is a step backward, and is a direct response to the reform efforts won and championed by community residents," Ald. Desmon Yancy said.

"Every single argument used to oppose arbitration is based on falsehoods and political theater," Ald. Silvana Tabares said.

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Police are arguing that eliminating arbitration is against the law.

"You do have a legal obligation to uphold the law. If you don't like the law, you don't get to say, 'I don't like the law; I'm going to ignore it.' You have to go and change it in Springfield," Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said.

"This is not about being anti-police. When you want to see accountability, this is about being anti-people who shouldn't be police in the first place," Ald. Andre Vasquez said.

In the end, the Council voted 32-18: two more voters than needed to reject arbitration as an option for police.

The mayor was asked if police board hearings should be more transparent.

"As far as the best available transparent process is the one we're speaking of today, now, is there room to continue to transform? Absolutely," Mayor Brandon Johnson said.

Catanzara is furious at the mayor.

"He quarterbacked the whole thing. He just made himself public enemy No. 1 for 2027," Catanzara said.
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