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Black Caucus endorses plan for civilian oversight of police

By Patrick Forrest

The Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus put their endorsement behind a compromise ordinance that would put an elected board of Chicago residents in charge of the Chicago Police Department, joining the City Council’s two other major caucuses in a revolt against Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance (ECPS), which was the reason that a large number of protesters took to the streets during the summer of 2020, is a compromise between two separate coalitions for different pieces of legislation. The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) came together on the newest resolution in an attempt to circumvent mayoral opposition.

“We cannot wait any longer for change,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), a member of the Black Caucus. “As a coalition of City Council members, legal experts, community organizations and residents, we have thoroughly examined the issue of police accountability in Chicago and created the right solution for the right time. It’s time to pass this bill.”

The aldermen have been in conversation with CAARPR and the rest of the GAPA coalition, which has led to the city being “on the verge of fundamentally transforming a broken policing system,” according to a statement from the Black Caucus.

“We have had productive talks with City Council members and the GAPA coalition and we agree on a lot,” Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for CAARPR and a proponent of the CPAC ordinance, said. “The Mayor is interfering because she does not want to see any change that would diminish her power, and what we are doing is putting the power in the hands of the people because that is where the power belongs.”

Black labor leaders representing seven unions with a combined membership of 126,000 members, most of whom live in the city of Chicago, published a statement, “Community and Faith Leaders Support the ECPS.”

According to Chapman, “In Chicago, we have built the broadest coalition for police accountability of any city in the country. At the center of that coalition is a strategic alliance between the Black Liberation movement and a number of progressive unions.”

Chapman continued, “In addition to the unions signed on to this statement, we also have the support of SEIU Local 1 with 30,000 members; UNITE HERE Local 1 with 15,000 members; plus our longtime ally, the United Electrical Workers union; several AFSCME locals, and other Illinois Federation of Teachers locals.

More than eight months ago, Mayor Lightfoot promised to introduce a separate plan for oversight of the police after dropping her support for the original plan put forth by GAPA, citing it would limit her ability to keep the city safe.

On top of the many Black labor associations that came together in support of the legislation, the Chicago Teachers Union also backed the passage of the resolution, citing not only the historical racial context of policing but also Mayor Lightfoot’s platform while running for office in 2019.

“The Chicago Teachers Union endorse the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance; and the CTU shall encourage all aldermen and the mayor to vote for and sign this ordinance,” the union said in a statement announcing their support. “And that CTU encourages all district organizers, delegates, officers and members to work for the passage of this ordinance by promoting it in our communities and schools. All members are encouraged to call their alderman and encourage a vote in favor of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance.”

The ECPS ordinance would also hold a binding referendum, which states that a year from now on March 15, 2022, the people of Chicago will decide whether the commission should be elected and whether it will have the authority to appoint the superintendent of police.

“Supporters of community control of the police still have a lot of work to do. First, the ordinance itself must be passed,” Ted Pearson, a co-chairperson emeritus of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said. “Then the real work begins to bring the issue to the voters and to mobilize for the March 2022 election.”


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