Crusader Staff Report
Pressure is mounting for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he remains silent on a proposal that would give sweeping powers to a seven-member commission that would have the ability to fire the Chicago Police Superintendent and other top officials at the beleaguered department.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police have rejected the proposal. Now, all eyes are on the mayor who is quiet on the issue amid heated calls for him to support the proposal.
With the mayoral election less than a year away, the proposal threatens to turn back Emanuel’s efforts to restore trust and credibility in the Black community. After backpedaling on allowing court oversight in implementing reforms in the Chicago Police Department, the clock is ticking for the mayor as he faces another proposal to change a department that has been in the national spotlight following the Laquan McDonald scandal and a scathing report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The latest test comes from the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), which drafted a proposal last week that calls for a seven-member commission that will be chosen by elected representatives from the 22 police districts. GAPA released the proposal after more than 18 months of community meetings that were backed by Emanuel himself.
Under the proposal, the commission would have the authority to choose the Police Board, and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), the police oversight agency that replaced IPRA. The proposed commission would conduct annual reviews of the superintendent, the head of COPA and the president of the Police Board. The commission would be able to fire all three with cause. The City Council would be able to reverse the terminations with two-thirds of the vote from the aldermen.
Johnson rejected the proposal, arguing that civilians “don’t have the professional acumen to develop strategy” for the police department. Kevin Graham, president of FOP, has also spoken out against the proposal, saying “policing is becoming impossible in Chicago. This democracy this group supposedly demands already exists. The mayor is elected. So is the City Council. Complaints about the police and new policies emerge from, and are endorsed by this institution.”
Emanuel on Monday, March 12 didn’t say whether he supported the proposal. His carefully-worded response to the proposal has drawn concern from activists.
“Our efforts are to ensure that, while we have the right type of oversight and the right type of accountability, it is complementary to our public safety goals,” Emanuel said.
The next day, Police Board President Lori Lightfoot warned the mayor of a political backlash should he stall on the proposal.
“The mayor endorsed this process two years ago,” Lightfoot said in the Chicago Sun Times. “Any effort to stall it and not let it see the light of day, not engage in the City Council process…will be met with extreme, extreme hostility. And it will be taken out on them in February, 2019.”
Lightfoot, who was reappointed as President of the Police Board in 2016 by Emanuel, co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability that forced the city to scrap IPRA in favor of COPA. Lightfoot has remained one of the mayor’s most outspoken critics.
At the press conference were Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) and Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward)
, who are the only two Black aldermen supporting the proposal. Six additional alderman are behind the plan. They are Harry Osterman (48th Ward), Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward), Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward , Deb Mell (33rd Ward), James Cappleman (46th Ward) and Ameya Pawar (47th Ward).