Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city has made significant gains in long-sought police reforms tied to union contracts, including the ability to lodge anonymous complaints against higher ranking officers.
On Friday, an independent labor arbitrator released a 106-page award addressing outstanding labor conflicts between the city and the three unions that represent sergeants, lieutenants and captains. The changes do not cover the department’s largest union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, which represents rank and file officers in Chicago. The FOP have their own contract with the city.
The arbitrator sided with the city by gutting long-standing protections union members had against allegations of misconduct. For years, union leaders and city labor lawyers have haggled over these protections through independent arbitrators. The unions have argued their members have a right to know their accusers. Reformers have argued requiring complainants to be identified deters people from filing for fear of retaliation.
In addition to opening the door to anonymous complaints, the arbitrator granted the city the ability to halt the destruction of disciplinary records for officers in those supervisory ranks. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled this month that those records must be preserved. It was a response to a legal challenge filed by the FOP.
“All of these gains reflect our values as a city and a change we need in order to build the critical trust between our officers and the communities that they serve,” Lightfoot said Friday.
Before she was mayor, Lightfoot, as head of the Police Accountability Task Force, released a report in 2016 highlighting transparency concerns built into the contracts. A subsequent Department of Justice report said the protections foster a code of silence among members.
Lightfoot added that this contract will be used as a “template and guide” for the city when it resumes negotiating with the FOP over its expired contract. Those negotiations have stalled while the union’s newly-elected president gets situated in office, the mayor said.
“We are anxious to get back to the bargaining table,” Lightfoot said of the FOP. “But I hope they recognize and bring to the negotiations the same collaborative effort.”
“Reform is here. We are continuing down this path, we are not going to stand still. The status quo has failed everyone.”
The FOP did not respond to a request for comment.
Claudia Morell covers City Hall for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.