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Aldermen, Mayor Clash Over Proposals For Civilian Oversight Of CPD, After Vote Delayed Until March

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two groups that have been trying to pass competing plans for a civilian oversight board for the Chicago Police Department said they are "extremely close" to reaching a compromise, and are disappointed Mayor Lori Lightfoot for stepping in to delay a vote while she prepares to release a third plan.

The City Council Public Safety had been scheduled to meet Friday to vote on two separate ordinances to create a civilian oversight agency, but Chairman Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said he postponed that vote until next month after the mayor said she planned to introduce her own plan.

"Respectfully, as chairman of the Committee, I must give her ordinance the same consideration that I've given the others. Me and my colleagues must determine which we will support and vote favorably upon. I believe good community oversight is important and is a must have if we plan to bring about real reform," Taliaferro said in an email.

The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) have been working on their own civilian oversight proposals. Aldermen co-sponsoring those ordinances said they were on the verge of coming up with a compromise between the two plans before Friday's meeting was canceled.

"Had we had a hearing today, we would have probably worked through the night to craft the finishing touches," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who co-sponsored the GAPA ordinance. "I was a bit disappointed when the mayor unilaterally canceled this hearing."

Sawyer said he believes Lightfoot sincerely wants to reform CPD, "but the real effort is to come with us and discuss it with us, where we have done a yeoman's job in doing a lot of work and getting this to the point that we are today."

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), a sponsor on the second civilian oversight ordinance, said he was confident if Friday's meeting had gone forward, the two groups would have been able to pass a compromise.

"We have been coming closer and closer and closer to really working out our differences, and landing on an ordinance that's going to be strong, and that's going to have the support of both coalitions, and provide our community with civilian oversight and the justice that they deserve," he said. "We are extremely, extremely close."

Ramirez-Rosa said the two proposals already introduced to the City Council have a combined 40 co-sponsors. He said the two sides at one point had 11 sticking points holding up an agreement, but they're down to 1.5.

"I'm just so disappointed to hear that Mayor Lightfoot, at the last minute, would now say that she is going to ask the Public Safety Committee to push this back an entire month, simply so that she can introduce her own ordinance," he said. "It is so disappointing to see that the mayor is, in this moment, standing in the way and hampering our progress." We are so close to getting down a compromised, united ordinance that will provide Chicagoans with the justice we deserve. We want to continue to work through this coalition to get this done."

Lightfoot said she is anything but late to the game on the push for civilian oversight of CPD, noting she chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability that urged former Mayor Rahm Emanuel create a civilian board empowered to set police policy and fire the superintendent.

"There's nothing last minute about my involvement in this work," Lightfoot said Friday. "Civilian oversight is something that I started the conversation in this city about almost five years ago."

However, since she was elected mayor, Lightfoot has resisted efforts to create a civilian police oversight board that would have the authority to fire the superintendent and have the final say on CPD policy.

Last March, Lightfoot announced she had reached an agreement with GAPA on their civilian oversight proposal, only to have that measure stall in a dispute over who would get final say on setting CPD policy.

The mayor declined to offer any specifics on what her proposal will entail, and would only say that it will be released "soon."

"You'll have to wait and see," she said.

The version backed by CAARPR would create a so-called Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) which supporters said would have the authority to set policies for the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Police Board, and Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). CPAC also would be responsible for negotiating CPD's union contracts, overseeing COPA's investigations of police misconduct, as well as disciplinary proceedings before the Chicago Police Board.

CPAC also would have the authority to hire the CPD superintendent, the chief administrator of COPA, and the members of the Chicago Police Board, but only with the advice and consent of the City Council. Unlike previous versions of the CPAC proposal, the latest proposal would not give the civilian oversight board final say on firing the CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, or Police Board members. Rather, the City Council would have final say on any such firings recommended by CPAC.

Meantime, a proposal negotiated with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) would create a so-called Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which would have less sweeping powers than CPAC.

The commission would be empowered to nominate candidates for CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, and Police Board members whenever there are vacancies. The mayor would then either choose one of the finalists to be confirmed by the City Council, or reject the candidates and seek a new list of finalists.

The commission also would be able to cast a vote of no confidence in the CPD superintendent, COPA administrator, or Police Board members, but a final decision on firing would be up to the City Council and the mayor.

The latest version submitted in January would give the mayor final say on setting CPD, COPA, or Police Board policy whenever there is a dispute with the new oversight commission. The mayor would be required to explain in writing if she rejects policies initiated by the commission.

However, Ramirez-Rosa said there's now "broad agreement" among aldermen that the civilian oversight board should have final say over police policy.

"Ultimately it must be the civilian commissioners – the representatives of the community – that are empowered to have the final say over CPD policy," he said. "We've had mayoral control of CPD for many, many years, and it has not worked," "We need to get civilian oversight right in the city of Chicago."

Still, Lightfoot said she's convinced it will be her proposal ultimately approved by the City Council.

"I feel very confident about where those proposals lie. I have a pretty good sense of what's going to happen there. So we'll see. We're gonna put out our proposal, which borrows from I think the best that we've seen here and across the country, and it'll be what it's going to be," she said.

It's unclear if Lightfoot plans to introduce her proposal at Wednesday's City Council meeting, or if she'll later introduce it directly to the Public Safety Committee.

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