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Chicago: Coalitions unite to issue joint ordinance on police accountability

By staff |
March 20, 2021
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Chicago, IL - An historic agreement has been reached by forces in the fight against police crimes in Chicago. Legislation for the strongest police accountability system of any city in the country has been negotiated between the coalition of forces led by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), backing the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), and the ordinance backed by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA).

Conditions were laid for this by the actions of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She unleashed the Chicago Police Department to brutalize protesters in the rebellion last summer after the murder of George Floyd. Then just before Christmas, she was exposed for covering-up the CPD raid of the home of Anjanette Young. In recent weeks, news broke that she gave $280 million - 60% of the federal CARES Act funding for Chicago - to CPD.

In February, CAARPR and GAPA were meeting to produce a combined ordinance in preparation for the meeting of the city council Public Safety Committee (PSC). They were about to reach agreement when the mayor compelled the head of the PSC to deny a hearing to them. This convinced a group of alderpersons that Lightfoot had no intention to hold the police accountable.

“The joint ordinance is a big step forward for democracy,” said Frank Chapman, Field Organizer of CAARPR. "This bill establishes a Community Commission for the purposes of increasing public safety and ensuring that CPD activities are based on community needs and public input."

“The joint ordinance empowers communities,” added Desmon Yancy, GAPA spokesperson and an organizer with the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). “It ensures that the police department is accountable to our residents and that our public safety system reflects our values.”

“We’re united around a vision for police accountability that places communities at the center of community oversight, where it belongs,” said Alderman Roderick Sawyer. “I’m confident that this transformative approach will have the support it needs in city council.”

Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa agreed. “This ordinance represents a historic milestone in the path to ending racist policing,” he said. “It will ensure our police department operates justly and provides public safety for all.”

Included in the ordinance is a binding referendum to appear on the ballot when the first election for the community commission is held. The referendum (shortened here for readability) asks, “Shall the City of Chicago make the Commission created…that oversees the Chicago Police Department (CPD) an 11-person body consisting of 9 Elected Commissioners and 2 Appointed Commissioners, and give the Commission authority over the following: CPD budget; hiring and firing…the Superintendent of Police and members of the Police Board; CPD, police board, and COPA policies; and police union contracts, in addition to any powers the commission already has or that are listed in…the Ordinance that created the Commission?”

In the coming days and weeks, alderpersons who are cosponsors of the GAPA and CPAC ordinances will be briefed on the joint ordinance. Already, the city council Progressive Reform Caucus supports it.

As leaders in the fight to transform Chicago’s police department, the coalition is calling on city council Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro to support the joint ordinance and call it for a committee vote in time to allow a vote of the full city council in April.