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Protesters take issue with mayor’s police oversight plan

Frank Chapman, field organizer with The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, speaks at a City Hall news conference Tuesday. | Jesse Betend/For the Sun-Times

Several groups of protesters met at City Hall today to voice their concerns with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed police oversight agency, ahead of a joint committee meeting Tuesday to consider the plan.

COPA is expected to pass easily following a series of alterations Emanuel has made since first introducing the ordinance. Those changes include adding guaranteed budget of $14 million and restrictions against former police officers serving as investigators; however, opponents say that’s not enough.

“It’s the same process with a different name,” said Frank Chapman, field organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, who attended a joint committee meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, hoping to urge the council in another direction.

“What we are advocating for is a truly democratically elected oversight board that will oversee the police.”

Chapman supports an ordinance that would create a Civilian Police Accountability Council, which would place the responsibility of police oversight in the hands of an elected body of civilians. Proponents of CPAC claim an independent board is the only way to guarantee fair investigations and encourage police officers to be candid concerning transgressions within their ranks.

Mark Clemens, another protester and opponent of COPA, joined Chapman for a press conference at City Hall before a joint committee meeting took up the COPA ordinance. Clemens believes CPAC would do as much for police officers as the community.

“We’re going to protect the good police so they can come forward and do right,” Clemens said.

Leaders from The NAACP Chicago Westside Branch and other social justice organizations spoke out against the proposed ordinance, citing conflict of interest concerns with the way investigations are handled. Under COPA, a person sexually assaulted by a police officer would not be able to request a separate investigation, but would have to file a report with the police, who would then handle the case internally.

“Independent means nothing. Civilian oversight means nothing,” Chapman said, “until we do the hiring and firing.”