City Council meeting disrupted despite new rules; parts of Chicago police contract approved

Thursday, December 14, 2023
City Council meeting disrupted despite new rules
The Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday had several items on the agenda, including Chicago police misconduct.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was some heated debate Wednesday in Chicago City Council over the police contract that would allow certain disciplinary cases to be handled behind closed doors by an arbitrator.

And new rules of order meant to curb disruptions were put to the test by people in the gallery.

An arbitrator previously ruled that police officers who are on disciplinary status for 365 days or more do have the right under state law to have their cases heard privately by an arbitrator instead of publicly before the police board.

On Wednesday, the City Council voted to challenge that, and now it could head to court.

The 10-year Chicago police contract with raises was approved, but Council members were voting separately on a provision challenging the rights of certain police officers to keep their disciplinary hearings behind closed doors with an arbitrator, instead of being held in public.

"If someone is at that threshold of having reasonable misconduct charges that could get them fired or suspended, we need to know about it," Ald. Maria Hadden said.

"One, the Illinois Public Relations Act of 1984 guarantees Chicago police the right to arbitration in exchange for the right to strike," Ald. Silvana Tabares said.

This was the first day with newly revised rules of order for those attending Council meetings.

Hundreds lined up on the first floor for the chance to get in, starting before 9 a.m.

SEE MORE: City council disruptions from gallery prompt call for changes for workplace safety

Many were there to voice their opinions about the Israel-Hamas war, but because of past issues with large crowds getting unruly inside, new stricter rules were put in place, and more police officers, some from as far away as Englewood, were brought in to help with security.

Bags were not allowed inside, and IDs were checked at the elevators. That slowed down the lines tremendously.

Inside the chambers, Mayor Brandon Johnson had to remind people of the rules of conduct.

"Just want to remind this body and those who are in the gallery, let's please make sure we give the individuals who are speaking their courtesy," Johnson said. "If you wish to express some agreement, let's do it subtly. Let's hold your applause until the very end, and then I would respectfully ask you to not interrupt or to disrupt while individuals are speaking. If you do that, I'm gonna ask that you be removed from the body."

There were also signs up inside City Hall reminding guests about the general rules of conduct inside chambers.

And despite numerous warnings before and after Council began, those rules were ignored by some, who banged on third-floor windows, while others yelled and chanted in chambers.

That prompted the mayor to demand action.

"Sergeant at Arms, please remove the individuals that are being disruptive, please, on both levels," Johnson was heard saying.

Two people were removed.

The mayor was even forced to recess the meeting for nearly 15 minutes while order was restored.

After that, the debate continued in earnest over the police arbitration issue, with progressives calling for transparency and accountability for rogue cops.

"Let's not cause confusion, or instill fear. This arbitration vote is talking about transparency," Ald. Jesse Fuentes said.

But others stood their ground for the rights of police afforded by the law.

"All of these calls for public accountability are not for transparency. But they're to continue the agenda of political assassination of our police department," 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said. "Colleagues, let me just say that the level of hypocrisy coming out of this room today has reached an all time high. It's become an Olympic-level event."

This was supposed to be the last City Council meeting of the year, but some aldermen have called a special meeting Thursday about the sanctuary city referendum.

It's not clear if there will be enough members in attendance to have a quorum.

In a news conference after the meeting, Johnson reflected on what took place.

"The fact that people believe that their voices matter, they're showing up. That's a good sign. And now we just have to make sure that we level set, so that people feel safe when they come to work, and voices can be expressed without the type of disrespect and disruption that unfortunately has happened," he said.