Emanuel wants to replace IPRA with COPA

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday changes to the way the city investigates police shootings, with a new police accountability board, COPA.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday changes to the way the city investigates police shootings, with a new police accountability board named the Civil Office of Police Accountability or COPA.

Emanuel hoped the city council would approve his new vision for a police watchdog agency by mid-September, but now says there's no rush in approving a the new board.

"Even people that normally aren't complimentary of my work acknowledge that the product is good," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel appeared to slow down his effort in the city council to replace the Independent Police Review Authority or IPRA with a Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

"If people need a few more weeks to look at it, so they feel comfortable, so they feel like they've discussed it with their constituents, that's not going to be a stumbling block," said Emanuel.

"I think it makes absolutely makes no sense to rush this through in two weeks," said Ald. Hairston (5th Ward).

Hairston began the effort to dismantle IPRA late last year following the release of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video. She says the proposed COPA still does not include adequate civilian involvement, which she says, "is crucial to restoring trust here in the city."

The mayor's plan also would hire a separate police department inspector general to be hired by the city's inspector general. The city's inspector general is hired by Emanuel.

Meanwhile, activist Gregory Livingston is concerned that the city law department would still have a role in police abuse investigations.

"The law department for the city represents the police department. How do you do that?" said Livingston, who is with the Coalition for a New Chicago.

While conceding more time to tweak his proposed ordinance, the mayor warned that uncertainty in the existing system is a developing problem.

"IPRA is losing staff because of uncertainty. Officers don't have certainty around their job about the oversight," said Emanuel.

The agency the city establishes is subject to be modified by federal authorities. The U.S. Justice department is investigating Chicago police abuse and how the city handles it. The feds will have the final say when that inquiry is completed probably sometime next year.

On Monday, the mayor met with several alderman to brief them on his new proposal to overhaul the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates alleged police wrongdoing.

ABC7 Eyewitness News learned the agency will become the Civilian Office of Police Accountability or COPA.

Calls to replace IPRA have grown louder since the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video last November.

"We want right change. We want things to be done in the right way so that we don't have to keep going through this over and over and over again," said Pastor Greg Livingston, Coalition for a New Chicago.

Emanuel is expected to reveal his plan soon, which also includes a new deputy inspector general for public safety.

But some aldermen said they believe more community input is needed on the proposed ordinance and that the mayor shouldn't hurry this through council on Sept. 14.

"I think the big thing here is that we don't need to rush this. The mayor spent 400 days holding off on Laquan McDonald with the video. I think what we see here now is a two-week rush to get this thing passed. I think we can slow it down a little," said Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward).

Some alderman said there are a few conflicts of interest that remain unresolved in the proposed ordinance.

For instance, the new agency wouldn't be able to hire its own outside counsel.

"Just like there's a Chinese wall between the mayor's office and the police department, there needs to be a Chinese wall between this review board and the law department," Livingston said.

COPA would also have to ask the mayor for money if it isn't given enough to do its job.

"It should be pegged to a portion of the city budget, so they're not beholden to the whims of politics or a mayor who doesn't want to give them funds or staffing," Waguespack said.

However, many alderman called Emanuel's plan a decent start and said it's a step in the right direction.

"The good things are they've broadened the things they can look at. Issues like coercion, issues like threats, will now go under IPRA's purview or COPA," Waguespack said.

The aldermen said they believe it will go a long way especially when it comes to restoring public trust.

A spokesperson for the mayor said there will be more opportunities for public input, but they expect to have an ordinance ready in the very near future.