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Social justice organization ready to assist candidates for police oversight commission

police oversight commission

If you want to run for the newly created interim Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability to help rebuild public trust in the Chicago Police Department, call Frank Chapman, national executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.

The District Councils will be created in each of the city’s 22 police districts. They will be made up of three people elected in regular municipal elections every four years.

The candidates will submit their petitions to the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners no later than November 30, but Chapman is urging those seeking assistance from his organization to submit them by November 21. He fears their petitions will be challenged by the Fraternal Order of Police, which is against civilian police oversight.

After heated debates and tense negotiations between the aldermen and Mayor Lightfoot, the City Council passed the ordinance creating the commission in July 2021. It is the city’s first civilian police oversight board, one that Chapman said he and others have been fighting for over decades.

The ordinance not only creates a new model for police oversight, accountability, and public safety, but it also creates two bodies, a Chicago Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability with the power to advance system reform, according to the city’s website, and also District Councils.

The District Councils will be elected in each of the police districts, charged with improving policing and public safety in the districts.

According to the city’s website, “The Commission and District Councils will bring police officers and Chicago residents together to plan, prioritize, and build mutual trust; strengthen the police accountability system; give Chicagoans a meaningful new role in oversight; and explore and advance alternative effective approaches to public safety.”

Mayor Lightfoot appointed the seven-member Commission August 29. Commissioners are: Isaac Troncoso, Reverend Dr. Beth Brown, Oswaldo Gomez, Anthony Driver, Cliff Nellis, Yvette Loizon and Remel Terry.

However, they will remain in office only until the Commission’s District Council members are elected February 28. The Commission will then recommend 14 names the mayor will use to choose a permanent seven-member Commission.

In either the summer or fall of 2023, the elected Commissioners who serve on the District Councils in each police district will nominate 14 candidates to serve on the permanent Commission.

The mayor will choose seven of them, and they must be confirmed by the City Council. They will serve four years and receive a $500 monthly stipend. They will hold monthly meetings, according to the city’s website.

Anyone can run for this Commission if over 18, a registered voter and have settled any debts they may have with the city of Chicago, according to Chapman.

However, former policemen can run if they have been out of the department for five years; candidates whose immediate family members are policemen cannot run.

Those interested in running must also “have a reputation of integrity, professionalism and sound judgment. They must have a history of leadership and community involvement. They must have a documented ability to work well with diverse people.”

Also, five of the commissioners must have five years of experience in at least one of the following fields: law, public policy, social work, psychology, mental health, public safety, community organizing, civil rights, or advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities, according to the city’s website.

Chapman’s organization is aiding those candidates seeking to run for one of the city’s 66 positions for the civilian-led police oversight agency. He will help candidates with their petitions and training on a pro bono basis, including notarizing their petitions.

The Commission will play a key role in selecting and removing the next Police Superintendent, Police Board members and the COPA Chief Administrator, according to the city’s website.

When there is a vacancy, the Commission will provide a short list from which the mayor will choose a candidate. Once that is made, the City Council will vote the nomination up or down.

The Commission will select the COPA administrator subject to the City Council’s confirmation. The Commission, with the City Council approval, can also remove the COPA Chief for cause.

Of the many powers the Commission will have, one is the ability to review the city’s budget and make recommended changes before the City Council votes on it.

Having been passed in July of 2021, the mayor’s appointment of the Commission is eight months late. While concerned about the tardiness of its creation, Chapman said,

“It’s never too late in the struggle.

“It was late because the mayor and the City Council did not want to follow through consistently on this historic ordinance that the people in Chicago got passed,” said Chapman.

“We put tens of thousands of people in the streets protesting over 10 years. It has been a long and intense struggle…sometimes a very bitter and heart-rendering one,” he said.

“It was a long struggle and one that was over rivers of blood because a lot of people were killed, tortured and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. It took all of that to get this ordinance passed, and when the City Council passed it, every national newspaper in this country wrote about it,” he stated.

“Law professors and experts said this was the most democratic ordinance passed. Chicago made history in a good way and empowered the people to police their communities.”

“While the City Council made history reluctantly, the mayor did not willingly and enthusiastically embrace this movement,” said Chapman. He said some of the aldermen were cynical about the ordinance and only voted for it because of pressure from the people.

“This great piece of legislation, the most democratic legislation in the county is not going to get enforced unless we the people get it in place,” Chapman said. “It is very important that we get people to participate in this process to demonstrate to the powers to be that we are going to see this through.”

Chapman made it clear that his organization is not endorsing any candidate. “We are just assessing their right to participate in the upcoming election,” he explained.

“We are dealing with the urban poor, Black and brown, who have been historically denied” the right to hold police accountable. “Our program is to move in the direction of the community controlling the police,” he stated.

To contact Chapman for assistance, call 312.939.2750, or to receive training, check out this link:

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