Compromise reached for civilian police oversight panel in Chicago

At Friday's city council meeting, Chicago’s Committee on Public Safety narrowly voted against a proposal that would have given more power to a civilian police oversight committee.

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Chicago’s local elected leaders struggled to reach a compromise concerning the authoritative powers of a civilian police oversight committee. Members of the Chicago City Council and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have shared multiple, competing proposals and many of the efforts to pass legislation were stalled at the latest city council meeting, CBS reports. 

On Friday, Chicago’s Committee on Public Safety, which is a part of the city council, voted against a proposal known as the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, which was reportedly introduced only 30 minutes before the meeting, the Chicago Sun Times, reports. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is reportedly under fire for spending over $280 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds on personnel costs for the Chicago Police Department. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The ordinance would vest the civilian oversight committee with the authority to hire and fire the Chicago Police Department superintendent and negotiate contracts with police unions as well as control CPD policy and budget, according to CBS 2. However, the city council came to a tight 10-9 vote against it.

Lightfoot staunchly opposed the ECPS ordinance and has proposed that she and future mayors retain the powers to hire and fire CPD superintendent, which is the opposite of what she campaigned on during her 2019 mayoral election race, according to the Chicago Sun Times. 

Demonstrators protest as they celebrate the verdict in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke along Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Some city council members say the ECPS ordinance was introduced too last minute to garner enough support. “I’ve screamed it to the rooftop over and over and over again about this substitute, and pulling the referendum, because I felt that it would negatively impact our Police Department. I felt that it would negatively impact our city,” said Alderman Chris Taliaferro. The 29th Ward representative said he believes the ordinance would have passed if it had been introduced earlier, CBS reports. 

Taliaferro has also voiced his agreement with Lightfoot in terms of what offices should have authority over the police department. “It should be within the authority of the mayor to hire and fire the superintendent, the Police Board and the COPA administrator. If she’s gonna wear the hat for any good or bad that happens within the police department, she needs to be able to hire and fire the chief executive of those offices,” Taliaferro told the Chicago Sun Times in May.

Although the vote against the ECPS ordinances means that Lightfoot narrowly dodged a political defeat, a compromise with defined powers for the city’s civilian police oversight committee still has not been reached.

 
“I’m disappointed with the outcome of not accepting the substitute to the ordinance given the amount of work and the fact that we’ve waited four years to vote on this matter,” said Alderman Harry Osterman who introduced the ordinance at Friday’s city council meeting. “Unfortunately Mayor Lightfoot and some of my colleagues blocked an effort to amend this ordinance that would lead to passage of the critical #ECPS ordinance. We will not be deterred in our fight to pass this critical and long overdue legislation. #ECPSNow,” he added in a Friday tweet. 

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