Council discusses proposed COPA agency to investigate CPD misconduct

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Mayor Emanuel has proposed creating the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to replace the Independent Police Review Authority. (WLS)

Chicago City Council members discussed Tuesday possible changes to the way police officers are investigated and held accountable.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office has proposed creating a new agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which would replace the much-maligned Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).

A vote on the proposal is not expected until the fall. On Tuesday, a joint city council committee held a hearing on the plan.

During the hearing, Steve Patton, the city's top lawyer, was the lead witness -- who under the COPA plan -- would hire lawyers for the agency, as well as the mayor's office and the police department.

"That's a conflict of interest because that same lawyer represents the city's interest, the police interest and also COPA's interest," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward).

Other aldermen are concerned that COPA, as proposed, does not have a guaranteed line in the budget.

"Anytime you create another agency, give it a new name but don't fund it, it demonstrates that you're not serious about having that agency be in existence," Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward).

Emanuel moved quickly to replace IPRA after the release of the Laquan McDonald video, which showed the black teenager being shot by Chicago police. The new agency would investigation officers accused of abuse or misconduct, including officer-involved shootings.

The proposed ordinance to create COPA also would name an inspector general to monitor the agency.

Attorney Flint Taylor, who has represented hundreds of alleged victims, has spent virtually his entire career in law advocating such reform.

"Where is the accountability and true transparency going to be?" said Taylor, of People's Law Office.

The alderman also heard from police accountability experts from New York and San Jose, Calif., two cities that have pioneered civilian led agencies.

Ironically, the citizen oversight component of COPA is not included in the ordinance.

A board, comprised of civilians, would be established under a separate measure not expected to be approved until next year.

So, how long will it take for that COPA board to be implemented?

"The organizations that have been involved in planning have estimate six to nine months," said Katie Hill, a mayoral aide.
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police-involved shootingchicago police departmentrahm emanuelChicago - LoopChicago - Bronzeville
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