Chicago Approves New Civilian Police Oversight Board After Years of Public Pressure

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance to create a new civilian commission to oversee the police department, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The council voted 36-13 to approve the measure, which will create a commission made up of three elected members from each of the city’s 22 police districts.

The vote came after decades of pressure starting after the police killing of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton that took on new life after the recent police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Ald. Harry Osterman, one of the lawmakers who was instrumental in passing the ordinance, said it was a “long-awaited” and “historic day.”

“We cannot have true safety in every neighborhood unless there is trust between citizens and police. ... The violence that we see every day is a byproduct of that lack of trust and lack of people wanting to call and work with the police,” he said.

Mayor touts reform efforts:

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised lawmakers for delivering the bill after lengthy negotiations.

“We’ve come a long way. We’ve had some stumbles. We’ve had some disagreements. But because of the hard work [of so many], we are on the precipice of making history,” she said.

Lightfoot rejected questions about whether police would “stop working” because of additional oversight.

“They won’t. They won’t. It’ll be hard. We’ll have to explain to them to break through the noise and the rhetoric that they’re also hearing from certain sources. But legitimacy is key to the work that our police do. If the communities do not trust them because they’re not legitimate to them, they will not be effective in their most core mission, which is serving and protecting every single resident of this city,” the mayor said.

Police union denounces commission:

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara denounced the bill and claimed it would demoralize a police force already seeing droves of retirements.

Catanzara noted that the police union already agreed to new accountability measures in an eight-year contract with the city.

“Another layer of oversight is just ridiculous. It’s only going to make coppers more pissed off because more oversight means, ’You’re doing something wrong. You need to be watched because you’re not doing something right,’” he said.

“It’s blaming the police for what’s wrong in this city. ... And we know that numbers don’t lie. Police are not the problem in this city. Criminals are the problem in this city and the politicians who defend the criminals.”


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