Chicago’s City Council approved the controversial civilian oversight committee on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. As a result, Mayor Lori Lightfoot can now say that she delivered one of her promises to her city.
On Wednesday, the council’s 36-13 vote finally ended the two-year wait for Lightfoot to come through with something that she promised would happen during her first 100 days in office.
Community activists who support the compromise are smiling in victory. Finally, citizens will have police accountability. Their calls for police responsibility increased in 2020 after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and every time Chicago police fatally shoot someone.
Previous talks on the matter stalled between Lightfoot’s office and grassroots activists looking for competing proposals.
South Side 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer co-sponsored the ordinance. He stated the panel would help residents feel like they have a stake in solving crime.
The problem that we’re having now is that there’s a disconnect between the police and our communities as it relates to solving crimes. In order for us to get back to that, we have to get the community involved. We believe this takes a strong step with re-engaging, [and] resetting our relationships between the community and police.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, was aligned with the grassroots activists during the negotiation process. He helped broker the deal for the oversight panel. Before Wednesday’s vote, Ramirez-Rosa stated he hoped the final version provided stronger oversight. However, he added that the grassroots organizers should be proud of the outcome.
This ordinance is predicated on the belief that when you empower our communities…when you give them a real seat at the table and you give them a real voice…We can make our policing system better and we can have a safer city in every single neighborhood, on every single street.
However, not everyone supported Chicago’s new civilian oversight panel. Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th Ward, believes the Chicago Police Department already has enough oversight.
The new law will allow a panel of citizens to oversee the Chicago Police Department. However, they will not have as much power as the grassroots activists had hoped for. For instance, the panel will be able to pass a non-binding no-confidence vote on the police superintendent. Lightfoot compromised, allowing the panel more authority to set Chicago police policies than she would have preferred. However, she retains veto power over new rules.
Jason Ervin, 28th War Alderman and chair of the council Black Caucus, believes the debate showed the different experiences — with the police — struggling Black neighborhoods compared to elsewhere in Chicago.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Tribune: Civilian oversight for Chicago police wins final approval after yearslong fight. Opponents say it will make cops’ jobs harder and hurt recruiting.; by John Byrne, Bill Ruthhart, Alice Yin, and Annie Sweeney
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