Advocates: Proposed Oversight Agency Would Restore ‘Power To The People’

Chicago Police car
Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons
Chicago Police car
Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

Advocates: Proposed Oversight Agency Would Restore ‘Power To The People’

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Only one of four proposals for civilian oversight of Chicago police puts “all of the power” into the hands of civilians, according to an organizer with the group that authored the plan. 

The proposal would allow city residents to vote on members of the Civilian Police Accountability Council, or CPAC, which would have the authority to hire and fire the police superintendent, investigate officers, and set police rules. 

Frank Chapman, an organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which authored the CPAC plan, said the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and a history of police abuse, which was documented in a blistering report by the U.S. Department of Justice last year, should be enough to persuade city officials to give civilians oversight power. 

“Had it not been for the historic abuse of power by the powers that be in this instance, then this would not be the solution,” Chapman told Morning Shift host Jenn White. 

Since May 15, the Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee has been taking public input on the four proposals for civilian oversight of the Chicago police department

Morning Shift will speak with advocates for each of the four proposals in the coming days. The remaining public hearings on the proposals are scheduled for May 29, May 31, and June 5, on the city’s West Side, Northwest Side, and North Side, respectively.

Below are highlights from Morning Shift’s conversation with Chapman on the CPAC proposal.

Why the CPAC proposal eliminates COPA, the current police oversight board

Frank Chapman: It’s another example of the police investigating the police. And that has not worked. That has not worked for 100 years. So we’re tired of what doesn’t work. 

The people need to be given a chance at the bar and are entitled to it. It’s their democratic right. If we’re not satisfied with the way our communities are policed, then we should have the power — and we do have the power — to take control of that ourselves. That’s a democratic right. It’s an inalienable democratic right.

‘We’re addressing the issue of power’

Jenn White: Talk about the public trust you think your plan could help rebuild between CPD and the community.

Chapman: Well let’s be clear about one thing first of all: There has been no trust between my community and the CPD — ever. Given the way black people are policed in this country, I think it’s hypocritical to talk about trust. So we’re not addressing the issue of trust. We’re addressing the issue of power. And we’re saying that we as a people should have the power to determine who polices our communities and how are communities are policed. 

If you’re going to racially segregate us and ghetto-ize us and put us into certain depressed areas, and then you’re going to put police in there to operate like a military occupying force? No. We’re not having it. 


Editor’s note: In the audio version of this interview, Chapman said Lori Lightfoot, former president of the Chicago Police Board and a candidate for Chicago mayor, did not do enough to address the 2014 police shooting death of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald. A campaign spokesperson for Lightfoot responded with this statement: “Frank Chapman made unfounded and false claims today about Lori Lightfoot’s record. While WBEZ made clear that the Laquan McDonald shooting took place outside of Lori’s tenure as head of the Police Board, it’s important to know that there is an investigation of the case pending before the Board, on hold until the criminal case is resolved, at the request of the judge. In spite of Mr. Chapman’s claims, Lori Lightfoot’s record is clear - she has been nothing less than an independent voice on police reform and a staunch supporter of a genuine role for civilian oversight in police accountability.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click on the “play” button above to listen to the entire segment.