CHICAGO — After months of promising her own plan outlining civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is slated to detail her vision Thursday — the day before aldermen will formally introduce their proposal backed by reform advocates and a large swath of City Council, officials said.
The mayor’s proposal is set to compete against the Empowering Communities for Public Safety legislation created as a compromise between the Civilian Police Accountability Council, or CPAC, and a competing ordinance authored by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, or GAPA. The two camps unified in March for what they dubbed the “people’s ordinance.“
The joint proposal between GAPA and CPAC is expected to be introduced to City Council’s Public Safety Committee Friday, said Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th,) the chairman of that committee. Taliaferro said he was told by the mayor’s office a draft plan from City Hall would be produced Thursday.
The CPAC/GAPA plan would allow residents to approve a binding referendum to give a civilian commission authority over issues currently decided by the Chicago Police Board. The commission would be empowered to negotiate police department contracts, hire and fire the superintendent, and set the department’s budget, greatly reducing the mayor’s influence.
The council’s Black Caucus endorsed the people’s ordinance Monday, joining the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses in squaring up against Lightfoot on the issue. On Thursday, Taliaferro said he has “not seen [Lightfoot’s] version. Not an iota of it.”
But the mayor’s plan is expected to challenge the binding referendum and allow her office and City Council to retain more authority over police.
“The mayor has made it very clear that if she is going to wear the hat as chief executive of the city, when it comes to police accountability, then she needs to have a say in who is the superintendent of Police,” Taliaferro said.
Lightfoot’s entry into politics came on the heels of her time spent as the president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, created in the wake of the police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald. The task force recommended the creation of a civilian oversight commission, and Lightfoot championed the issue as a candidate and said it was a top goal of her administration after taking office.
Lightfoot withdrew her support from GAPA last summer, promising an alternative.
For years, leaders of the two proposals have offered differing visions of what a civilian oversight panel would look like. After months of no apparent movement from City Hall, advocates and aldermen said the shared frustration over delays that have stopped civilian police oversight from passing though City Council brought them together.
“People aren’t necessarily happy with the amount of time that it’s taken,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) chair of the Black Caucus. “A number of our members support the unified proposal. … But some people expressed they want to see what else will be put on the table.”
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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