CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot has named longtime police reform advocate Adam Gross as the first executive director of a newly created civilian board tasked with overseeing the Chicago Police Department.
Gross, an attorney and public safety policy expert who helped a coalition of grassroots groups negotiate with the Lightfoot administration to create the new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, will help lead the new oversight board.
"I am honored and humbled to serve Chicago as the first-ever Executive Director of the newly created Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability," Gross said in a statement. "Independent, civilian-led oversight of our police department and police accountability agencies is more important than ever before."
Approved by the City Council in July, the board is expected to begin its work later this year, after the City Council Rules Committee nominates 14 people to serve on the seven-member board. Lightfoot will choose from those 14 nominees.
The Rules Committee missed a Dec. 1 deadline to name those 14 nominees.
City Council approval of the new civilian oversight board came after years of tense negotiations between grassroots police reform groups and the mayor's office, under both Lightfoot and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The board 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.
"Under Adam's leadership, the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability will become a critically important piece of our city's police accountability infrastructure and empower our communities to take the lead in this incredibly important work," Lightfoot said in a statement. "I have the utmost confidence in Adam's experience and ability to support and guide this new commission, and look forward to working with him as we work to make Chicago a national leader in police reform."
The new board is the result of a compromise reached last summer, after both Lightfoot and grassroots groups pushing competing proposals had difficulty getting the necessary votes to pass a civilian police oversight plan.
To reach that compromise, the mayor agreed to give the oversight panel more say in setting CPD policy than she originally wanted, while grassroots activists gave up their push to empower the commission to fire the police superintendent.
In addition to the seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, the ordinance establishing the new civilian oversight board also would set up elected three-member councils in each of the city's 22 police districts, who would advise the commission and nominate its members.
In 2023, during the same election for mayor and City Council, voters would choose three members for each of 22 district councils in the Chicago Police Department's 22 districts. Those district council members would then nominate candidates for the Community Commission for Public Safety, and the mayor would appoint commission members from among the nominees, subject to City Council approval.
The seven-member commission would be empowered to set policies for CPD, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and the Chicago Police Board.
However, the mayor would be able to veto policies established by the commission, which could only be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the City Council.
The commission also would have the authority to hire the head of COPA, subject to City Council approval; and to take a vote of no-confidence in the police superintendent or members of the Police Board, requiring a two-thirds majority from the commission.
If the commission were to approve a no-confidence vote against the superintendent or police board member, the City Council would hold a vote on whether to recommend to the mayor that they be fired – a recommendation requiring a two-thirds vote from aldermen. However, the final decision would still be up to the mayor, who would only be required to explain the decision in writing within 14 days of the council's vote.
In the future, when there is a vacancy for police superintendent, the commission would conduct a nationwide search for candidates, and present the mayor with a list of three finalists to choose from, essentially taking over the nomination process now in the hands of the Police Board.
While the commission would not have the direct authority to fire the head of the COPA, members could also hold a no-confidence vote for the agency's chief administrator, prompting a City Council vote on whether to remove the chief administrator by a two-thirds vote.
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