Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is looking to set up a new civilian council to make the city’s police more accountable to residents – legal or otherwise – but she’s not prepared to cede any of her decision-making authority.
The proposed seven-member council would lead hiring searches when the positions of police superintendent, Police Board president or administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) come open, Lightfoot said on Monday. The council also would assess the performance of those officials and set goals for them, and have the power to adopt a resolution of no confidence if it deems a leader unfit.
However, the mayor would continue to make final decisions on hiring and firing. Lightfoot and the city council would remain the decision makers, even though the council will be able to make recommendations on policies and budgets, as well as direct COPA to investigate complaints of police misconduct.
“The commission will make recommendations,” Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But yes, because the buck stops with me, I will ultimately, as mayor … be making that decision.”
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If approved by the City Council, the new commission would start operating in January 2022. A competing proposal would seek voter approval in 2022 to create a new commission with powers to hire and fire, negotiate police contracts and set budgets. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a fellow Democrat, has argued that Lightfoot supported an elected civilian police commission with policy and personnel powers when she ran for mayor in 2019.
As a mayoral candidate, Lightfoot said she wanted an elected civilian commission with power over CPD policy, and power to hire and fire the police superintendent, the police board, and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability administrator. See: https://t.co/XJcc380izm pic.twitter.com/4xQ3mxPW0N
— Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa ✶ (@CDRosa) May 19, 2021
Lightfoot spurred controversy last week, when she said she would grant interviews only to non-white reporters, citing the need for “diversity and inclusion.” She also specifically ruled out any citizenship requirement for being on her proposed council.
“Public safety is something that every resident of the city has a stake in,” she said. “And we want to make sure that the undocumented community also has the ability to participate.”
Chicago’s latest push for police reforms comes amid rising violent crime. There were 997 people shot in the city in this year’s first four months, up 39% from 2020’s pace, and homicides were up 20% at 187. There were 55 shootings, 11 of which were fatal, in the latest weekend alone.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police issued a vote of no confidence against Lightfoot last week, citing officer burnout and cancellation of a march for officers killed in the line of duty.
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