Updated at 2:45 p.m.
Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted on Wednesday to approve and recommend three appointments to the Chicago Police Board, meaning the appointments will be forwarded to the full city council for consideration.
The appointments mark Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s first chance to remake the police accountability panel she used to head, but instead of going for a radical transformation, Lightfoot is choosing to keep two members chosen by her predecessor, and is replacing the third with a former top aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Sheila Bedi, a clinical law professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and an attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center, said Lightfoot’s decision to largely stick with the status quo is “quite disappointing.”
“It's a missed opportunity for the mayor to make good on her promise of transformation,” Bedi said.
Lightfoot was president of the police board for about three years before she resigned in 2018 to run for mayor. The board is in charge of meting out discipline for the most serious police misconduct.
Lightfoot is keeping on Paula Wolff and John O’Malley, both of whom were appointed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the police board. Wolff joined the board in 2018, she is with the Illinois Justice Project. O’Malley is a former U.S. Marshal who now does corporate security. He joined the board in 2017.
The only new member of the board going before the city council this month is attorney Matthew Crowl who, like Lightfoot, is a former federal prosecutor. Crowl also served as Daley’s deputy chief of staff.
Crowl is replacing investment banker and longtime Emanuel ally John Simpson, whose term expired in August.
Simpson, a former police officer, called his time on the police board an “extraordinarily rewarding experience.”
“My colleagues and I on the police board, I think, tried our best to get it right,” Simpson said. “You try to balance people's right to be policed fairly and equitably with officers’ rights to due process and a fair hearing and sometimes that's easy and sometimes that's very hard.”
Simpson said Crowl has a “terrific” reputation.
“He'll certainly do an excellent job and I'm proud to be replaced by somebody that capable,” Simpson said.
Bedi did not talk about the qualifications of specific members, but she said the appointments should be used to put people on the police board “who are directly affected by police violence.”
Crowl declined to comment on his appointment.
In a statement, Lightfoot said the members being appointed will build on the city’s commitment “to providing the necessary independent oversight to ensure Chicago's residents receive the most Constitutional, respectful and professional police protection and service possible."
“Through their collective decades of experience, expertise and vision, I have full confidence that each and every one of these members will perform their duties with independence, integrity and fairness,” Lightfoot said.
One case still pending before the board has to do with the death of David Koschman at the hands of Daley’s nephew R.J. Vanecko. A sergeant is facing a suspension for taking part in the alleged police cover-up.
Crowl was Daley’s deputy chief of staff for public safety at the time of Koschman’s death and told Daley about his nephew’s involvement, according to a report by a special prosecutor who investigated the killing.
If the City Council signs off on Lightfoot’s three appointments, all of the police board members will have terms that run until at least 2022.