From police accountability reform to Donald Trump’s honorary street sign, Progress Illinois provides highlights from Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting.
Chicago’s police accountability system is set to undergo a major overhaul.
Aldermen approved a mayor-backed ordinance to replace the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) with a Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which will investigate police shootings, Taser usage and other incidents. The ordinance also creates a new public safety deputy within the city’s inspector general’s office.
“As in every ordinance that we introduce in City Council, this is far from perfect, and we’ve mentioned that several times today, but it shows that we want to move forward,” said Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the public safety committee. “It’s a giant step in the right direction.”
Reboyras was one of 39 aldermen who voted in favor of the ordinance. Eight aldermen — including Leslie Hairston (5th), Marty Quinn (13th), Matt O’Shea (19th), Michael Zalewski (23rd), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st) — voted against the measure.
“Nothing in this ordinance provides any more transparency than IPRA,” Hairston said. “You can’t have community oversight if the mayor’s office still remains in control of the agency in charge of investigating police. … Obviously, Chicago ain’t ready for reform. Sadly, we’ve proved it time and time again.”
Aldermen approved the ordinance over objections from community and faith leaders who argued that the plan lacks the “teeth” needed for real change.
Over a dozen members of the Community Renewal Society interrupted today’s council meeting, urging aldermen to delay the vote to strengthen the COPA ordinance. They chanted “Hold the vote!” before being ushered out of the council chambers.
CRS members also rallied before the council meeting to demand that aldermen vote against COPA and not be “puppets of the mayor.” They toted signs the read “Rahm’s Plan Is A Joke! Give It Some Teeth!”
“Mayor Emanuel has proposed a police reform ordinance that fails to establish real accountability, transparency and reform,” CRS Executive Director Curtiss DeYoung told reporters. “He’s pressed through a watered-down plan for what we really need.”
During council debate, Ald. David Moore (17th) pushed back on the ordinance’s critics.
“Let me be clear: This is not the mayor’s ordinance,” Moore stressed. “This ordinance was done in collective with this council and leadership throughout this city. What the mayor did was take the lead on it.”
For his part, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the ordinance a “significant step” for the city.
“Both in product and in process today, this ordinance stands in contrast to what happened before” in Chicago on police accountability reform, the mayor said. “It’s been noted that it’s not perfect. Of course it’s not.”
Emanuel said the ordinance “stands in a context” of a “series of things that we have done as a city in the last 10 months collectively,” such as de-escalation and mental health training for police and new rules regarding when videos of officer-involved use of force incidents are released to the public.
“Over the last 10 months we have taken small steps and today a significant step on improving on what we have had,” the mayor said. “No, our work is not done. This is a process toward a point.”
Also on Wednesday, the mayor’s office announced that the city secured a $3.1 million federal grant to hire 25 police officers dedicated to community policing. The federal funding comes from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
City Council OK’s Additional Police-Related Measures
Aldermen approved a few other police-related measures Wednesday.
The council agreed to strengthen Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance to protect immigrants from threats by police and other city employees based on their perceived immigration status.
The measure is meant to ensure that immigrants are “treated with respect and dignity by all city employees and should not be subjected to physical abuse, threats or intimidation.”
Under the proposal, complaints of such attacks would be handled by city and police oversight agencies.
The group Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) reacted to the amended Welcoming City Ordinance and Chicago’s police accountability overhaul. The organization issued a statement, calling on Chicago policymakers to go even “further on police accountability and policies affecting the city’s immigrants.”
Here is OCAD’s statement:
We stand with Black-led organizations who have been calling for community lead changes to the way that the City of Chicago addresses police misconduct and violence, particularly the efforts to establish a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). While the inclusion of immigrant rights concerns is important, the limited reforms proposed by the Emanuel administration are insufficient, lacks real enforcement on over-policing immigrant and African-American communities.
The lack of accountability of civilian oversight on CPD to monitor and track its abuses not only in immigrant communities, but also African-American communities is unacceptable. If the city truly wishes to be a real welcoming city to immigrants, the Emanuel administration needs to keep its word, and take out the carve outs to the Welcoming City Ordinance, and break once and for all any CPD and ICE collaboration.
The Emanuel administration also needs to address how police operations happen within immigrant communities and how racial profiling by CPD contributes to how immigrants in Chicago end up in deportation proceedings. We have seen an increase in DUI checkpoints and police saturations in mainly Immigrant and African-American communities throughout the South Side. OCAD has addressed this issue in the past year, and we are still waiting for answers on why Black & Latino neighborhoods are targeted over others. Chicago must stand with immigrants now more than ever, when Welcoming Cities are being attacked and with xenophobia on the rise.
As for other legislation, the Chicago City Council authorized $25 million in borrowing to purchase 600 new police cars over the next two years. The police cars will help accommodate new officers the Chicago Police Department plans to hire.
Aldermen also OK’d a resolution calling on the police department to equip officers with quick-clotting gauze. The gauze is used to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds and other injuries.
Specifically, the measure calls on the CPD to “make individual first aid kits containing a hemostatic product such as QuikClot Combat Gauze standard issue to all police officers who have successfully completed the Police Department’s L.E.M.A.R.T. [Law Enforcement Medical and Rescue Training] course.”
Each first aid kit costs $100.
Other City Council Approvals
***Chicago has banned city business with Wells Fargo for 12 months.
The ban’s approval comes amid the fallout over Wells Fargo’s unauthorized-accounts scandal. The bank is under fire for the opening of about 2 million fraudulent customer accounts since 2011.
Chicago’s Wells Fargo ban comes after City Treasurer Kurt Summers announced plans to unwind $25 million in city investments with the financial institution.
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs also halted $30 billion in state investments with Wells Fargo this week.
***On a separate issue, aldermen agreed to set a three-minute time limit on public testimony in the City Council. Speakers will be limited to three minutes per each City Council agenda item.
Under the regulations, public speakers must be present to testify and “refrain from using profane language or obscene conduct” and making “irrelevant, repetitious or disruptive comments.”
News reports suggest that the time limit was largely aimed at George Blakemore, the 74-year-old “concerned citizen” who regularly speaks his mind at council meetings and often calls aldermen rubber stamps.
City Council Targets Trump
Chicago aldermen want to remove the city’s honorary street sign dedicated to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee.
A majority of aldermen back Ald. Brendan Reilly’s (42nd) ordinance to remove the “Trump Plaza” honorary street sign, which is located outside the Trump Tower. The sign was installed in 2006.
“The city of Chicago will not tolerate Donald Trump’s irresponsible platform of anger and hate against immigrants and minorities,” the proposed ordinance reads.
It adds: “Donald Trump’s mean-spirited remarks about Chicago during the first presidential debate misrepresents the city and discredits the positive attributes of the city.”
Asked about the ordinance, Emanuel joked that the city will “put the sign back up when he releases his tax returns.”
“I think he’s wrong for America,” the mayor, a Hillary Clinton supporter, said of Trump. “My recommendation: don’t just take a sign down, let’s make sure we mobilize and get out and vote because this is a very important and big election.”
Alderman Backs Rock Island Clean Line
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) introduced a resolution Wednesday in support of the Rock Island Clean Line energy transmission project. The transmission line would deliver wind energy from northwest Iowa to Illinois and other eastern states.
In August, a state appeals court overturned the Illinois Commerce Commission’s 2014 decision to approve the long-proposed project. The appeals court ruled that Rock Island Clean Line did not meet the definition of a public utility.
The company has appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Lopez’s resolution states support for Rock Island’s project and seeks a city analysis on the court decision’s potential impact on Chicagoans.
“Electricity bills in Chicago are high enough already without the state courts stepping in to stop infrastructure projects designed to help reduce prices in the future,” Lopez said in a statement. “The Clean Line project would provide a major new source of clean energy and reduce electricity prices in Illinois by $320 million in the first year of operation alone. The lower court was wrong to completely ignore consumer savings from the project, and to ignore the good union jobs that would be created, and the Illinois Supreme Court should take a look.”
“I want our city law department to investigate whether the city can help the effort,” the alderman added.