Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ( PHOTO: BY Babs Young LICENSED UNDER CCA-SA 2.0)

After failing to announce a comprehensive plan for Chicago Police reform after the June report of the Police Accountability Task Force, in July Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an August series of “community forums” in various neighborhoods hosted by local alderman. This was a response to the progressive caucus of aldermen and community activists who felt he was not getting enough input from the communities on the front line of police crimes. After these hearings, the Mayor’s plan would be introduced as an ordinance in September. On September 14 to be exact.

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Photo by Bill Chambers

The general outline of the Mayor’s plan would be to replace the ineffective Independent Police Review Authority with a new civilian investigative agency and create a new public safety auditor to monitor policing issues. His agency would be called Civilian Office on Police Accountability (COPA). Even these meager details made it clear that the Mayor was ignoring the input of the “community forums” with the majority of community members wanting an elected board that would allow for community control of the police – specifically the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that had already been introduced on July 21 by Alderman Carlos Rosa. There was no demand for another police review board or civilian monitor selected or controlled by the Mayor. As some have already pointed out, the Mayor’s COPA seemed to be so named to be confused with the CPAC ordinance already introduced.

When the day of the City Council meeting arrived yesterday, Emanuel indicated that his ordinance would not be introduced and voted on with a delay until September 29.

The coalition of activist, faith-based, and community groups supporting the CPAC ordinance responded with a press conference and protest outside the City Council meeting.

Frank Chapman (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Frank Chapman
(Photo by Bill Chambers)

Frank Chapman, field organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) led off the press conference by emphasizing that the CPAC ordinance is being ignored.

“They [Mayor’s staff] did say that 40% of the people, by our count 60% who showed up at the community hearings supported CPAC. CPAC is a piece of legislation already in the City Council and at yesterday’s committee hearings they didn’t say anything about it and wouldn’t let our people bring it up or ask questions…The hearings were to get the input of the people before the Mayor introduces his legislation…Everyone is going for that but the most important people in this city – we’re not going for that. We know the system of accountability he is trying to set up is fake.”

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Muhammad Sankari (Photo by Bill Chambers)

Muhammad Sankari from the United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) spoke of the broad support for CPAC in the city.

“CPAC is the only ordinance that is supported by the communities, faith groups, and unions. CPAC is the only democratic answer to the police crimes that has been going on for decades in this city. We need an end to the Mayor’s reshuffling of bureaucracy, an end to these phony reforms. We need a shift in the politics of this city. We need a true democracy. We need community control of the police who are supposed to be here to protect our communities.”

Adeline Bracey of Action Now called the Mayor and the aldermen to account as representatives of the people of the city.

“We don’t need the Mayor dictating to us. We are the citizens and the voters. We want the

Adeline Bracey (Photo by Bill Chambers)
Adeline Bracey
(Photo by Bill Chambers)

Mayor and the aldermen to do their job and represent us. We know what we want. We’ve already spoken.”

The coalition for community control of the police has grown over time adding the endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare. Recently the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) has come out in opposition to the Mayor’s proposed COPA Ordinance. Ben Goldsmith with the JCUA explained the organization’s position.

“In all the tragedy this city has seen, this City Council has the opportunity to get it right. We wouldn’t be here today if things had been working the way they were. A “complete overhaul” was recommended by the administration task force. But instead, you are here considering more of the same. COPA has no genuine civilian element whatsoever, despite the title. And where is the funding for this new office? There is no independent prosecutor so the same law office pursuing subpoenas or other actions against police officers will be the one defending police officers. I understand that there have been some enhancements of IPRA under its new acronym (expanded jurisdiction, transparency measures). But, to use a car analogy, in IPRA the city had been sold a lemon. We have now brought it back to the lot and are being offered that same model back in return but, we are told, this one has power windows! It makes no sense and I want the mayor to know my community is watching….Currently, CPAC is the only ordinance in which I can see genuine civilian over site. There is no need to delay this because the communities have spoken….The mayor is stalling in order to avoid any true reforms.”

According to the Mayor, his COPA ordinance will be introduced on at the next City Council meeting on September 29. Given the continued delays, the coalition for community control of the police announced they will be returning in even bigger numbers on that day top make sure the people’s support for the CPAC ordinance is not ignored once again.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.


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