Chicago Women Take Action (CWTA) strongly supports the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) ordinance that awaits a hearing in the Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
CWTA has supported the establishment of an independent civilian oversight board for the Chicago Police Department for several years beginning with a series of recommendations on police accountability released in 2017. Many tragic events involving police departments over the years, including several egregious cases here in Chicago, underscore the need for civilian oversight of the police. Independence, transparency, and authority must be the hallmarks of police accountability councils if they are to be successful. After in-depth study, CWTA established a series of principles it recommends be included in any ordinance on this subject.
CWTA principles include the recommendations that the elected Civilian Police Accountability Council must:
- Set policies, procedures, rules and regulations and review/change existing policies for the Chicago Police Department (CPD), COPA (Civilian Office of Police Accountability), and Police Board.
- Hire the Police Superintendent, Chief Administrator for COPA, and the Police Board and, as necessary, terminate these officials for cause.
- Review, assess, and make suggested changes to the CPD budget.
- Monitor contract negotiations between the City and the Fraternal Order of Police and make recommendations to the City Council regarding approval of proposed contracts.
- Issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
- Establish a mediation program involving members of the public and CPD officers.
- Facilitate stations adjustments and diversion of people from formal arrests and criminal prosecution and into community service.
- Monitor and report on all surveillance equipment and programs.
- In conjunction with COPA, analyze policing trends and patterns related to COPA’s investigative jurisdiction (e.g., use of force, police shootings, Taser use, citizen complaint log numbers, biases in policing, relevant data regarding misconduct, disciplinary measures for misconduct, among others).
- Solicit public input about police practices and work of the oversight bodies from a diverse segment of the community.
- Have access to information, documents, data, and records in order carry out the oversight bodies’ powers and duties.
- Enforce penalty for retaliation, obstruction, or interference of any person who serves of seeks to serve as a member of the oversight body.
- Require transparency from the Superintendent, Public Safety Inspector General, Chief Administrator, and President of the Police Board by having them meet with the oversight body to update and answer questions from them.
The CPAC proposed ordinance embodies these principles, but there are two others CWTA also recommends:
- For mental and behavioral health emergencies, have mental health professionals accompany the police or replace the police with mental health professionals consistent with CWTA endorsed state legislation introduced in 2019 (Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA), HB 5009 and SB 3449, Mobile Response For Mental and Behavioral Health Emergencies).
- Immediately establish CPD hiring provisions, consistent with the U.S. House introduced Justice in Policing Act that would ensure that applicants who have received prior misconduct complaints while employed with any other law enforcement agency are screened out and not considered for employment with the CPD.
CWTA urges the Public Safety Committee to hold hearings on the proposed ordinance with alacrity so it can be presented to the Council for approval as soon as possible. Its enactment is essential to restoring the trust and transforming the relationship between the community and the Chicago Police Department. As past and recent events nationwide underscore dramatically, the need to reform institutions like the Chicago Police Department is essential and can be a model for police departments throughout the nation. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.”
Chicago Women Take Action is a non-profit membership organization of Chicago-area women activists of all ages united by its commitment to advocate and fight for social justice, economic security, and a peaceful world in which women and their families can thrive. It is confident that by working together and with others, its voices and actions can make the critical difference.