CHICAGO (AP) – A few hundred activists gathered outside Chicago City Hall on Wednesday to call on the mayor and city council to form a newly elected board that would have the power to investigate and fire police officers.
The activists hope to convince Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the council, who gathered at City Hall during the protest, to support the Civilian Police Accountability Commission or CPAC regulation, although they have been trying for months without gaining much ground. Councilors are reluctant to support CPAC, and Lightfoot is locked in a dispute over how such a commission might work.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said on Wednesday that she will continue to support civilian police oversight, but prefers a different approach than the activist-backed proposal.
“I think when people read it and see what it asks for, there are some things that are very concerning, and I am concerned about the legality of other parts of it,” said Lightfoot.
Lightfoot’s favorite plan to establish a civilian surveillance commission over the police got bogged down in a city council committee in March. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a planned vote fell apart after a dispute over how much power the mayor would have in approving police policy.
The mayor said on Wednesday that she still hopes to get her preferred model for civilian surveillance ‘over the threshold’. Under that model, committee members would be nominated by elected representatives of police districts, rather than being directly elected by voters, as advocates of the CPAC proposal would like.
Since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month, there has been renewed pressure across the country at a national level for more civilian oversight of police forces.
Some critics consider the activists’ preferred approach to be anti-police, and opponents question whether some provisions are even legal, including one that would forbid anyone who has worked in law enforcement or who is related to someone in law enforcement to join the committee. .
As Wednesday’s protest continued outside the building, speakers at the city council meeting urged the mayor and aldermen to cut money from the police budget to fund social programs.
In Chicago there is the so-called Civilian Office of Police Accountability. That agency, commonly referred to as COPA, investigates police shootings and allegations of officer misconduct, but makes recommendations only on whether officers should be disciplined or fired and has no authority to do so themselves.
That authority is vested in the Chicago Police Board, an independent civilian body made up of citizens who have been appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the city council.
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