A Plan For Civilian Oversight Of Chicago Police Hits Another Roadblock

police badges
Officers attend a Chicago Police Department graduation ceremony at Navy Pier. On Tuesday, a plan to create a civilian board to oversee CPD hit another roadblock. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
police badges
Officers attend a Chicago Police Department graduation ceremony at Navy Pier. On Tuesday, a plan to create a civilian board to oversee CPD hit another roadblock. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A Plan For Civilian Oversight Of Chicago Police Hits Another Roadblock

A years-long plan to create a civilian board to oversee the Chicago Police Department hit another roadblock Tuesday after a disagreement about who should have final say over police policy.

The City Council’s Committee on Public Safety had been scheduled to hold a hearing on an updated version of the reform plan from the Grassroots Alliance on Police Accountability, commonly referred to as GAPA proposal.

Public Safety Chairman Chris Taliaffero, 29th Ward, indicated last week that his committee would hold a hearing Tuesday. But at the last minute, he called it off, explaining that he is still ironing out details with aldermen and the mayor’s office.

GAPA calls for the creation of an elected board of civilians pulled from each of Chicago’s 22 police districts. That board would have the ability to fire the police superintendent and the authority to implement police policy. The latest version that’s still being drafted removes the authority to remove the superintendent.

Talifarro explained one issue remains: “Who will make the final approval on any policy before the Chicago Police Department, if there is a disagreement between the commission and the Police Department? Who makes that final decision?"

“That’s the only issue I believe is being discussed right now,” he added.

In an emailed statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said, “The City is working with GAPA to address remaining questions on this new governance structure and the plan for its implementation. As part of our effort to ensure aldermen continue to have ample time to review such a significant proposal, we are holding the ordinance so that the City and GAPA can continue to collectively address their feedback.”

Taliaffero, a former police sergeant, said he supports the ability for the commission to write policy, or a system where the commission and Police Department share that responsibility.

One of the ordinance’s lead sponsors, Ald. Harry Osterman, 48th Ward, said aldermen were briefed on the ordinance last week, adding that the goal is to get it passed “sometime soon.”

"Ultimately we will get an ordinance that is good for public policy,” Osterman said.

The police union has long opposed the GAPA ordinance, arguing that there’s already enough oversight of the Police Department.

In addition to the GAPA ordinance, the City Council is sitting on another police reform plan that would significantly overhaul the handling of police policy and alleged cases of misconduct.

The Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance — known as the CPAC plan — became a campaign issue in 2019 with several newly-elected aldermen expressing support for it. The CPAC proposal would grant more authority to its newly-created civilian oversight boards than any other police reform plans created in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. But it doesn’t have the support of the Lightfoot administration.

Claudia Morell covers city of Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.