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CPAC Plan Would Cut $600 Million From Chicago Police Budget, As Aldermen Debate Civilian Oversight Of Cops

Backers for the Civilian Police Accountability Council and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability presented changes to their respective ordinances Tuesday as they try to drum up support from aldermen.

A police officer reveals their formerly covered badge number after protesters chastise the officer for obscuring the number outside the Chicago Police Academy in the West Loop during a protest demanding that Chicago Public Schools divest from the Chicago Police Department on June 4, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Police Department would see its budget cut by hundreds of millions of dollars under new changes to the Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance.

The proposed ordinance, known as CPAC, would create a police oversight board of elected civilians. Now, its advocates are saying it would also include a provision that would cap the Police Department budget, cutting hundreds of millions from its spending plan.

The changes to CPAC were detailed during a Tuesday meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety. Co-sponsors of a rival police oversight plan — the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, or GAPA — also outlined changes to their proposed ordinance.

But the most significant changes were made to CPAC. Ald. Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who introduced the ordinance in 2016, said they were made to address the concerns of aldermen and “ensure that CPAC can withstand a legal court challenge.” 

RELATED: What’s CPAC? Here’s What You Need To Know About A Local Push For Civilian Oversight Of Police

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) at a City Council meeting in February 2020.

The changes to the CPAC ordinance come after City Council battled over Police Department funding during budget hearings in the fall. Mayor Lori Lightfoot explicitly rejected demands to cut police funding, and aldermen ultimately passed the mayor’s 2021 budget in a narrow vote.

CPAC has received support from progressive aldermen, while GAPA has the support of at least 30 aldermen. Lightfoot doesn’t support either ordinance and has said she’ll introduce a third plan.

No votes were taken on either plan. The chairman of the committee, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), said separate hearings would be scheduled later this month to debate each proposal.

A breakdown of the changes to CPAC and GAPA:

Protesters march on Armitage Avenue during a protest demanding that Chicago Public Schools divest from the Chicago Police Department on June 4, 2020.

CPAC Proposal

CPAC would give broad control over the Police Department to the civilian commission. It would include 11 councilors, elected from two contiguous police districts. They would select deputy councilors to help monitor the department. Councilors and their deputies would earn full-time salaries in line with aldermen.

But following criticism of the plan during an October meeting, changes were made to give City Council a role in police oversight — and to cut police spending.

The 2021 city budget allocates nearly $1.7 billion to the Police Department — nearly 40 percent of total corporate fund expenditures. The corporate fund is the largest of several funds comprising the city’s spending plan. 

The new CPAC ordinance would set a “ceiling” for the police budget, capping it at 25 percent of corporate fund expenditures from the previous year.

That would mean that, should the revised CPAC proposal be approved in 2021, the 2022 Police Department budget would be cut by about $600 million.

The ordinance stipulates CPAC’s budget cannot be less than 1 percent of that of the Police Department. The ordinance also was amended to require 20 percent of CPAC’s budget to be devoted to “studying, piloting, experimenting with and implementing non-policing public safety solutions,” such as violence intervention programs.

Under the changes, CPAC still would have the authority to hire the police superintendent, the chief administrator of the Chicago Office of Police Accountability and members of the Chicago Police Board. But the changes stipulate those decisions would be made with the “advice and consent” of City Council.

A majority of City Council would have to approve if CPAC moved to fire anyone serving in those positions.

The changes also allow for the police department and Chicago Police Board to create the boundaries for the electoral districts of the CPAC councilors and would allow for councilors to be removed from their positions for cause.

“It’s time to take measures that have never been taken before because we keep finding ourselves in the same position over and over again,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), a co-sponsor of the amended proposal.

GAPA Proposal

GAPA would create a nine-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. The initial proposal would have empowered its members to set Police Department policies, launch investigations, compel data from the department and recommend police budgets to City Council.

Key changes would now allow the commission to take votes of no confidence for the police superintendent, COPA administrator and police board members; to annually review and “set priorities” for those three bodies; and to comment on the police budget before City Council. The revised ordinance also would grant the commission authority to launch a COPA investigation.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Harry Osterman (48th) presented the changes to GAPA, with Sawyer saying the council would fit within the “existing systems” of policing currently in place, but would “increase accountability” and “brings the community to the table with an equal voice.”

Osterman said the ordinance also now includes a provision to establish an interim board to serve on the commission until an election could take place in November 2022.

The GAPA ordinance is needed to “establish and rebuild trust” with the city and Police Department, Osterman said.

“GAPA represents a fundamental change that puts civilians in Chicago in an oversight capacity and accountability role for CPD, COPA and the Police Board,” he said.

Lightfoot’s Plan

Either proposal would fulfill a recommendation by the Police Accountability Task Force to establish a civilian body to oversee the Police Department. The group was convened by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015 following the release of video showing police killing Laquan McDonald.

The task force was initially chaired by Lightfoot, who was then head of the Chicago Police Board.

Lightfoot said the creation of a civilian oversight commission was a priority for her administration, but neither proposal has received a vote in City Council. After initially signaling her support for GAPA, Lightfoot said this summer she was “moving on” from the proposal and her office promised to introduce a third measure. 

RELATED: Aldermen Probe Languishing Police Oversight Plans As Lightfoot’s ‘Alternative’ Proposal Lies In Wait

The mayor, who does not support CPAC, said Tuesday she is “personally involved” and is confident legislation will be passed to create an oversight body.

“We’ve engaged in conversation with members of the City Council over the break about what it looks like. But what’s most important is getting a structure that makes sense, that is reflective of true community oversight but also is supportive of the work that must be done regarding the consent decree,” she said.

Following the meeting, GAPA supporters called on City Council to “deliver on promises for systemic change” and rejected an anticipated third proposal to be introduced by Lightfoot, citing the “widespread policy failures” in Lightfoot’s handling of the Anjanette Young incident.

“The community will not accept an ordinance created by Mayor Lightfoot — an ordinance that does not come from the community and would consolidate control over CPD policy-making in her hands,” the group said in a statement.

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