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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved the creation of a new civilian panel to oversee the Chicago Police Department, a measure supporters said would be the strongest of its kind in the country.
Aldermen voted 36-13 to create a new seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the result of months of on-and-off negotiations between Mayor Lori Lightfoot, aldermen, and a coalition of grassroots police reform groups.
The panel would give citizens in Chicago more input into setting policies for the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and the Chicago Police Board. However, the mayor would retain her power to hire and fire the police superintendent, and could veto policy mandates approved by the new civilian oversight commission, although the City Council could override her veto by a two-thirds vote.
The measure is the result of a compromise reached over the weekend, after both Lightfoot and grassroots groups pushing competing proposals had difficulty getting the necessary votes to pass a civilian police oversight plan.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) began Wednesday’s debate by saying the measure the City Council has agreed to is not as strong as he would have liked, but is “a strong, transformative, and robust ordinance, because this is a balanced ordinance.”
“It took a village to get us here today,” he added. “Sometimes we were at odds, but we came together, because we knew that our city had to get something right, because we knew that our city had to take action to ensure that people in every single community feel safe.”
Ramirez-Rosa said activists have been pushing for decades to have community oversight of the police, in response to a pattern of misconduct within CPD, a push he said was renewed in the wake of the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
He said the ordinance is meant to give civilians a real voice at the table in setting CPD policy, in nominating the police superintendent, and to cast a vote of no confidence in the superintendent if warranted.
But some critics have said there is already enough oversight of the Chicago Police Department.
“We don’t need police reform, we need family reform. Families need to start taking ownership and watching over their children, protecting their communities. We can’t be blaming the police for everything,” Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) said.
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While acknowledging opponents didn’t have the votes to block the ordinance, Sposato said, “You’re going to win, we’re going to lose. The police are going to lose, and the city is going to lose.”
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