Lightfoot Appoints Police Reform Advocate to Lead New Civilian Oversight Board

The city’s first civilian-led police oversight panel now has its first executive director.

Adam Gross, an attorney and longtime police reform advocate, was appointed to that role on Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot called the creation of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability a “historic milestone” and expressed her confidence in Gross’ ability to run the agency.

“Under Adam’s leadership, the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability will become a critically important piece of our city’s police accountability infrastructure and empower our communities to take the lead in this incredibly important work,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a news release.

Gross has decades of experience in advocating for structural reforms. Most recently, he has been director of the Police Accountability Program of the nonprofit group Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. BPI, according to its website, “advocates for racial and economic equity through its four program areas: Housing, Justice Reform, Police Accountability, and Early Childhood Education.”

Since 2016, Gross has also provided legal, policy and technical support to the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability — an organization that fought for a civilian oversight panel.

“I am honored and humbled to serve Chicago as the first-ever Executive Director of the newly created Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability,” Gross was quoted as saying in the news release. “Independent, civilian-led oversight of our police department and police accountability agencies is more important than ever before.”

The ordinance, passed by the Chicago City Council last summer, establishes a two-tiered model for civilian oversight that includes a public seven-person panel whose members serve four-year terms.

The Council will nominate 14 people for spots on the oversight panel; from that list, the mayor will choose seven interim commissioners to serve until the first regular commission is appointed.

Gross will manage the team that supports the commission and district councils while serving as a liaison and primary point of contact between the police department and the city’s other oversight boards.

The community commission will play a role in selecting and removing the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, as well as the Civilian of Office of Police Accountability’s chief administrator and members of the Chicago Police Board. The commission also can introduce a resolution of no-confidence in the police superintendent or a police board member by a two-thirds majority vote.

It also can develop new or amended policy by collaborating with CPD, COPA and the police board. The commission will set goals and help evaluate the progress of the police superintendent, COPA chief administrator and the police board president.

There also will be three-member elected councils in each of the city’s 22 police districts.

Those members will be selected by residents of their districts in the February 2023 primary, in which voters can cast ballots for up to three candidates each. The three residents getting the most votes will assume office that May.

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