Mayor Lori Lightfoot releases long-awaited civilian police oversight proposal

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner via WLS logo
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
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Mayor Lightfoot's plan is billed as an effort to make police officers answerable to the public, but all aspects of the citizen's commission and councils appear to be advisory.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing a new seven-member citizens panel that would have an oversight and advisory role on Chicago police operations.

Mayor Lightfoot's 17-page proposed ordinance would set up a citywide "civilian commission" of seven appointed members and smaller, elected public councils in each of Chicago's 22 police districts.

The proposed ordinance, which would be taken up by the City Council's Public Safety Committee, would establish the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability to oversee community input on the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Board.

While the plan is billed as an effort to make police officers answerable to the public, all aspects of the citizen's commission and councils appear to be advisory, allowing for the commission to research, audit, provide input, policy development, propose budgets, review officer conduct and, if needed, pass a no confidence vote against the superintendent and others.

In the event Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown or any other future superintendent leaves, the citizens' commission would undertake a search and provide three recommendations to the mayor. Ultimately, hiring would still be the mayor's call.

"Public safety, I think, is one of the most critical responsibilities of any mayor," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said today at an unrelated press conference. "The relationship between the mayor and the police superintendent is critically important so we have a process by which these candidates will be vetted through the Commission. The Commission will make recommendations, but yes, because the buck stops with me, I will ultimately as mayor and any other subsequent mayor, be making that decision."

There are similar, competing plans for civilian oversight also under consideration, including a plan that combines several previous community group plans into what 35th Ward Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa calls a "unity" ordinance.

"For the mayor to come at this late juncture, with a proposal that is just a veneer of civilian oversight, I think it's an insult to the community groups, I think it's an insult to all of the folks that have been diligently working for true civilian oversight and police accountability reform," Alderman Ramirez-Rosa said.

Ald. Ramirez-Rosa says the mayor's plan and the previously-introduced unity ordinance are headed for what he calls a "showdown" in the city council's public safety committee.