One of four proposals for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department is meant to be “complementary” to Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s recent community policing initiatives, an organizer of the plan says.
The proposal, called the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, comes from the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability — a coalition of more than a dozen Chicago community groups in more than 30 of the city’s 50 wards. And it is based on police accountability commissions in Seattle and Los Angeles.
GAPA organizer Mecole Jordan said CCPSA isn’t seeking the ability to investigate officers or fire those found guilty of misconduct because its focus is on holding leaders accountable.
“We took the approach of not wanting to get into the weeds of the intricacies of various investigations,” Jordan told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia. “We said we’ll take a bird’s-eye view from a community perspective. … And we can hold leadership accountable for what they’re supposed to do.”
Below are highlights from Morning Shift’s conversation with Jordan on the CCPSA proposal.
Having 66 on-the-ground members but a smaller, 7-member board
Mecole Jordan: One of the things we noticed about Seattle’s model was that the size of the 13 to 15 member board doesn’t allow for the effectiveness, or for the authority, that they would have liked to have.
In contrast, when we looked at the Los Angeles model — a model that has been in effect for almost 100 years — it’s a five-member board with a lot of powers that works closely with the superintendent and other agencies there. After talking with them, we understood the importance of the community having that kind of power, because they’re really able to bring in the voice of the community in a way that a lot of times politics doesn’t allow.
But one of the things they noted as something they don’t have a grasp on is the on-the-ground component. So how do you have the power that you need but still have eyes and ears on the ground that makes sense and is real?
Seeing superintendent hiring and firing powers as an incentive
Jordan: Right now, the police board gives three names to the mayor, and we know that is an important position for the mayor to still hold. Actually, it’s still written in there that the mayor can unilaterally remove the superintendent, but having the extra component of accountability to the community, we feel is extremely important.
And to be clear, the ability to remove the superintendent would be with cause and a process giving time for the superintendent to be able to correct actions. In LA, they’ve never had to use it, but the ability is enough to have mutual accountability — [an incentive] to work with the community as they should be.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click on the “play” button above to listen to the entire segment.
Correction: This article previously stated that the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability plan was one of two plans from Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward).