Chicago’s City Council took its first look at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to abolish the Independent Police Review Authority and replace it with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
“I’ve been at this job five years and there is nothing, at least in my tenure, which has come close to the kind of involvement and work that has gone into this ordinance,” said Steve Patton, Chicago’s corporation counsel.
Patton said COPA will determine which complaints about police misconduct fall under its jurisdiction and which will be forwarded to the police department’s internal affairs division.
The ordinance would also create the role of inspector general for public safety as well as a community oversight board.
Patton said the measure is still not complete, including establishing how the oversight board and COPA’s executive director will be chosen.
Still, for some of those who have fought the department on allegations of police brutality, the mayor’s plan is a positive step, some law experts say.
“I think some of the things in this ordinance parrot what we have been calling for and the city has had deaf ears on for decades,” said Flint Taylor of People’s Law Office. “So we welcome those kinds of changes.”
But there are also questions about COPA’s budget and whether or not it will have its own lawyers to prosecute wrongdoing instead of relying on the same law department that represents the city and Chicago cops.
“That has to be built into the ordinance, it has to include an independent counsel clause, it doesn’t, I am a no vote,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz.
In May, the mayor’s police accountability task force made over 75 recommendations to restore public trust in the department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting.
Now many of those recommendations are incorporated into the new ordinance—with the inspector general being key.
“The role of this new inspector general position holds is of critical importance,” Patton said. “It seems to be noncontroversial and it seems like we should proceed with that as soon as we can.”