The City Council’s 11-member Progressive Caucus on Monday added its voice to the growing chorus demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel honor his promise to seek federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
“The mayor has reversed course on his commitment to submitting to a consent decree on police reform with little explanation,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), chairman of the Progressive Caucus, said in a news release.
“That lack of transparency in approach is part of the reason we’re in this crisis today. We need bold leadership in this moment — not vacillation and secrecy.”
Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th) scoffed at Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel’s promise of an “independent monitor with real credibility holding our feet to the fire and issuing regular public reports so the community can hold our feet to the fire.”
“The idea that we can negotiate our way through this with the Trump Department of Justice on the other side of the table is delusional,” Sadlowski-Garza said in a news release.
South Side Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) noted that experts agree federal court oversight is needed to build public trust.
“Our criminal justice system is broken, and we need sweeping change, not half measures. The only way to get there is a [through] a consent decree.”
The press release was distributed in the name of the entire Progressive Caucus, but individual members have expressed opposing views.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), a Progressive Caucus member who also chairs the Council’s Black Caucus, told the Chicago Sun-Times last week he is not a fan of “court-enforced monitors.”
“It’s another layer of patronage. We pay millions for monitors, and they’re interested in staying,” Sawyer said then.
“How long were we in Shakman, 30 [or 40] years? How many millions of dollars did we have to pay out? I don’t want to get into that again.”
Last week, lawyers for Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups filed a class-action lawsuit seeking federal oversight over the department.
They accused Emanuel of reneging on his January commitment to negotiate a consent decree and, instead, of attempting to cut a “back-room deal” with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who opposes court oversight over local police departments.
Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Emanuel held a closed-door meeting with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in the mayor’s office on the 5th floor of City Hall.
Madigan came out of the meeting saying Emanuel is “scared” of federal court oversight over the police department and the decades of financial pressure that would put on beleaguered taxpayers.
“They don’t want a 40-year consent decree a la Shakman or the Cook County Jail. They also don’t want a federal judge taking over the city’s already precarious budget,” she said.
But Madigan also argued the door to federal court oversight was “not closed” and that Emanuel recognizes “reform won’t work if the public doesn’t buy into it” and the growing resistance shows there is no public buy-in.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, have also accused Emanuel of breaking the promise he made earlier this year to enter into “good faith” negotiations toward a court-enforced consent decree.
The ACLU has argued that anything short of federal court oversight was “hostile to police reform” and doomed to failure given the magnitude of the problems laid bare in the scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.