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New Head Of Chicago Police Civilian Oversight Commission Will Push For Change Within CPD, Some Progressive Aldermen Say

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed attorney Adam Gross, who helped craft the oversight commission and will lead a 14-person staff to carry out the commission's work.

Attorney Adam Gross; An officer walks into Chicago Police Department headquarters Oct. 18, 2021.
BPI Chicago; Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed attorney Adam Gross to serve as executive director of the recently established civilian-led commission to oversee the Chicago Police Department, her office announced Monday.

Gross, director of the Police Accountability Program For Business and Professional People For The Public Interest, previously led negotiations for one of two key coalitions of alderpeople and community groups that joined forces to push for the commission. 

Gross previously advocated for the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, or GAPA, during the long-stalled process to create the commission. In July, City Council approved a compromise between Lightfoot, GAPA and supporters of the Civilian Police Accountability Council.

“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 said in a statement. 

Gross will lead a 14-person staff to carry out the daily work of the commission and serve as a liaison between the commission, the Mayor’s Office, the Police Department, the Chicago Police Board and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Gross said he was “honored and humbled” to be appointed to the post.

“Independent, civilian-led oversight of our police department and police accountability agencies is more important than ever before,” he said. “I look forward to working with the Commission, District Councils, the Police Department, and partners across the city to give community members a greater opportunity to help build a safer and stronger Chicago.”

The nomination received praise Monday from two progressive alderpeople who previously supported the more robust CPAC proposal before teaming up with Gross and the GAPA coalition on the compromise that was approved in July.

“Having worked with Adam during the ECPS negotiations for two years, I feel confident in his ability to move us forward in the direction we need to go as it relates to civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department,” Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) said. 

“Mr. Gross knows the ECPS ordinance like the back of his hand. I can’t think of a better person for this important civilian oversight role,” Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Chicago Police respond to a shooting in Irving Park Dec. 28, 2021.

The 36-13 vote in July 2021 to create the commission ended a two-year-long stalemate as Lightfoot opposed previous moves to establish such a commission, despite a campaign pledge to do so in her first 100 days of office.

Under the ordinance, three-member councils will be elected for each of the city’s 22 police districts in 2023. Those councils will convene local meetings and be charged with oversight and improving the level of trust between the community and the department. They will also be responsible for nominating candidates for the citywide commission, to be appointed by the mayor.

The seven-member commission can nominate three people when the police superintendent job is vacant. The mayor could choose one of the three or reject them all. If they are rejected, the commission would start the process over with new nominees until the mayor picks a superintendent nominated by the commission.

The groups also can write new police policies, which the mayor can veto. A two-thirds City Council majority would be required to override the mayor. 

The commission will select the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, subject to City Council approval, and can hold a binding vote of no-confidence for the position.

Until the 2023 election of the three-member councils, an interim seven-member commission is set to be established in 2022, with City Council nominating 14 finalists for Lightfoot to choose from. 

The Daily Line reported in December the City Council Rules Committee blew past a December 1 deadline to send a list of 14 nominees to Lightfoot to choose from for the seven member panel.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), a key sponsor of the ordinance, blamed the delay on City Council being preoccupied with the passage of the 2022 budget ordinance. 

The Rules Committee is now accepting applications for the interim commission through February 4.

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