Five months ago, I pledged to the residents of Chicago that we would do whatever it takes to rebuild public trust and restore accountability in the police department. My goal is to bring safety to every community though building trust in our police department. That requires creating a new system for police accountability and oversight.
Today I can announce that in the coming weeks, we will have the final details worked out on a comprehensive plan to fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability and it will be introduced at the following meeting of the full City Council on June 22. It will be based on the thoughtful suggestions made by my Police Accountability Task Force. It will also be informed by the conversations my administration is having with aldermen, community leaders, the U.S. Department of Justice and experts in the field. We want to make sure the police accountability system is trusted by the members of the Chicago Police Department and the residents of Chicago.
The framework for the new structure was outlined in the Task Force’s reforms and is driven by core principles that lie at the heart of the police accountability: independence, integrity, transparency and citizen participation.
First, we will replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a new civilian investigative agency that has more independence and more resources to do its work. Under the leadership of Sharon Fairley, IPRA has taken important steps to reshape and improve its investigative efforts. But it is clear that a totally new agency is required to rebuild trust in investigations of officer-involved shootings and the most serious allegations of police misconduct. As we create this new civilian agency, the Police Board will continue to hear cases regarding those police officers who face allegations of serious misconduct, as required by Illinois state law.
Second, we will create a new Public Safety Inspector General to audit and monitor policing in Chicago. It will have authority to conduct regular audits of the Chicago Police Department as well as investigations completed by the new civilian oversight agency. The IG’s goal will be to identify and address emerging problems and trends in order to prevent acts of abuse from occurring in the first place. The office will be led by someone with impeccable credentials and credibility.
Third, we will create a new Community Safety Oversight Board – comprised of Chicago city residents – to oversee the city’s entire policy accountability system. Consistent with the Task Force’s recommendations, this board will hold public meetings and require regular public reporting from the Police Department, the new civilian investigative agency, Police Review Board and Public Safety Inspector General. It will also be empowered to request audits and make improvements. The new board will give a voice to Chicago residents whose lives are affected daily by police practices. It will also provide a forum for our Police Department to respond to concerns and share information. Public dialogue is essential to building a common understanding of how best to keep our communities safe.
I believe these guiding principles and key reforms will meet our goals for transforming Chicago’s police accountability structure and reflect the conversations and proposals that have been offered by aldermen to me. Ald. Ariel Reboyras and Ald. Willie B. Cochran are committed to working with our office and leading the Council on drafting an ordinance that reflects these principles.
This plan represents the second installment of the original down payment that we announced days after the Task Force published its report. The first installment focused on technology, transparency and training. This second installment is focused on accountability and oversight. And it is just one part of the city’s work to restore trust between police and communities.
As the Justice Department continues its review into Chicago police practices, they have identified urgent issues to address. The Task Force recently added its own recommendations. We must address the concerns of both, as well as those issues we have identified through our continuing engagement with the community. Some of those issues can and have been addressed immediately — from expanding body-worn cameras, to purchasing Tasers, to making sure more police are certified in Crisis Intervention Training. Other reforms will take longer and will require leadership and sustained effort as we make important changes — like those I’ve outlined — and work to make them permanent.
Our goal has been to act quickly wherever possible but also to commit to the hard work to ensure all of our reforms will stand the test of time. As this process continues, we will issue quarterly reports so we can all be held accountable.
While much work still remains, we will continue to make significant strides on the road to reform. To fully fix Chicago’s police accountability system, we must be thoughtful and bold and have the courage to call out and address the root causes that have eroded trust between police and Chicago’s communities and some of Chicago’s residents.
We will be judged by whether our actions truly measure up to the demands of the moment. I am confident that by creating this new structure and committing to this comprehensive plan, Chicago will be better off because we are facing up to these difficult challenges and we are doing so together.
Rahm Emanuel is serving his second term as mayor of Chicago.
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