Chicago Crusader staff report
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to change the Chicago Police Department has been delayed again after community leaders and residents voiced opposition to the plan at a hearing at City Hall on Wednesday.
Black leaders and activists were expected to return to City Hall again for another hearing that was scheduled for Thursday, July 7.
In May, the mayor announced plans to replace the beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) after recommendations by his own Police Accountability Task Force. The move was viewed as a step forward in restoring transparency and trust in Chicago and the Black community.
At Wednesday’s hearing at City Hall, activists and leaders voiced concern that the mayor’s plan did not have enough input from the community and residents. Before the mayor’s plan is passed and becomes an ordinance, leaders believe more effort is needed to win the support of the community.
“There needs to be a … greater degree of community engagement before there can be a proper reform of the police department and the police oversight process,” said Paul Strauss of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “The hearings scheduled for today and tomorrow are wholly inadequate for engaging the community in police reform. A much deeper, more thorough process for community engagement is required.”
Shari Runner, president of the Chicago Urban League, called for a “real public dialogue” during town hall meetings with community residents. During the meeting, she also questioned why the hearing was being held days after a major holiday.
The hearing was a sober reminder to Emanuel’s administration that distrust in his leadership and the police department still exists despite several initiatives and political moves to address lingering problems that plague Chicago’s disenfranchised neighborhoods for years.
The problem boiled over last November with the release of a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Since the video’s release, residents on the South and West Sides have called for transparency and community input in decision-making involving the Chicago Police department. During community town hall meetings, the biggest concern was the mayor’s overwhelming power and influence on the city’s law enforcement officials and IPRA.
The mayor’s new police oversight plan was on schedule to be proposed at a July 20 City Council meeting, but lingering concerns have put those plans on hold.
With his leadership and reputation still questionable, there is concern among Blacks that Emanuel is more eager to repair his image than repair a law enforcement system that’s been broken for decades. And with transparency and community involvement still an issue, many activists believe Emanuel remains a disingenuous mayor who despite appearance, is not about the needs of the city’s working-class and poor population.
A month ago at another meeting, Lori Lightfoot, chair of the Police Accountability Task Force and president of the Chicago Police Board, urged the mayor to have more meaningful engagement with residents of the community. At that meeting, it was announced that two City Hall hearings would be held to keep the mayor from introducing his reform ordinance in June.
The mayor’s office released a statement to the press in response to criticism:
“We’ve been committed to a full public process on this important issue, and the mayor has worked to ensure that meaningful public engagement continues to be a priority in shaping the city’s police accountability system. The Police Accountability Task Force themselves held a series of public hearings prior to releasing their report. The City Council is holding a public hearing today. And there will be additional opportunities for public engagement, reflecting the importance of public input throughout the process.”