Police Oversight Agency Head Resigns, Emanuel Names Interim Replacement

The agency investigating police misconduct has new leadership, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday.

Emanuel named retired Judge Patricia Banks interim chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) following the resignation of the agency’s former head Sharon Fairley, who’s planning to launch a run for Illinois Attorney General.

Banks will lead the newly-formed police oversight agency while the Chief Administrator Selection Advisory Panel – also announced Monday – conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

Banks will take over at COPA effective Wednesday, a spokesman for Emanuel confirmed. The change came one day after Fairley filed to create a “Friends for Fairley” political committee to support her run for the position that will soon be vacated by current Attorney General Lisa Madigan, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Fairley submitted her resignation Tuesday and sources told NBC 5 she has begun asking supporters for campaign contributions.

When reached by phone Tuesday before news broke of her departure, Fairley said “it’s an interesting time” and she was far too busy to speak, adding “I appreciate you understanding,” before abruptly hanging up the phone – leaving no room for any further questions. [[445832893, C]]

“As Chief Administrator, Sharon Fairly [sic] led efforts to create a new police accountability agency that was meaningful mile-marker on the road to police reform, accountability and transparency,” Emanuel said in a release announcing the change in leadership.

“I am grateful to Judge Patricia Banks for taking these reigns [sic] and supporting the city as it continues down the road to reform,” he continued. “With decades of legal experience in labor and employment litigation, and more than 20 years as a judge, she brings critical and practical experience to the City as we implement the latest police reform measures.”

Banks was elected judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1994, according to the release, and currently serves as the presiding judge of the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division.

Illinois Justice Project Director Paula Wolff and Ald. Ariel Reboyras, Chairman of the City Council Committee on Public Safety, will chair the advisory panel, of which members “will be finalized in the coming weeks,” the mayor’s office said.

The panel will support Emanuel in selecting a new chief administrator of COPA, who will then require approval by Chicago’s City Council.

The shift in COPA’s leadership came less than three weeks after the agency launched, replacing the Independent Police Review Authority that was oft-maligned in the wake of the high-profile Laquan McDonald shooting.

Emanuel tapped Fairley to lead the IPRA when the beleaguered agency’s former head resigned in Dec. 2015. She was appointed the following year to serve as COPA’s first chief administrator, a role she assumed when the office officially opened on Sept. 15.

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