After chaotic hearing on civilian oversight of cops, alderman to change format

SHARE After chaotic hearing on civilian oversight of cops, alderman to change format

Ald. Ariel Reboyras says he’s changing the format of public hearings on civilian police oversight after the first one erupted in chaos. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times file photo

The format of public hearings on four rival proposals for civilian police review will be dramatically altered after a chaotic first hearing that encountered so much resistance, it had to be cut short.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, said he would abandon plans to divide the audience into smaller discussion groups in favor of a format similar to the court-ordered public participation session prior to City Council meetings.

That would give participants who fill out sign-in sheets three minutes apiece to air their views.

Reboyras did not say whether there would be a portable countdown clock for the four remaining public hearings that begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gage Park High School, 5630 S Rockwell.

Reboyras acknowledged he’s making the change because the hearings got off to a disastrous start on Tuesday night at Corliss High School.

“We had two tables — and about 20 folks — who were very, very uncooperative. They didn’t let it happen and they won,” Reboyras recalled.

“They shouted much louder than we did. They pretty much controlled the atmosphere for two hours at least . . . They were very upset. Some of them walked out early.”

The resistance was led by supporters of the most extreme of four rival proposals for civilian police review.

“They want to be heard, and we want to hear them,” Reboyras said.

Last month, Reboyras called off a City Council hearing two years in the making on that proposal to abolish the Police Board, get rid of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and replace both with an elected, 22-member council.

Reboyras said then it was “too egregious” and didn’t have the 26 votes needed for passage.

But he agreed to put it on equal footing with three other more moderate proposals after rookie Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) withdrew his threat to force a City Council floor fight that could have embarrassed Mayor Rahm Emanuel and put aldermen on the spot.

On Friday, Reboyras chided Ramirez-Rosa for not even showing up at the first public hearing.

“He needs to be there . . . I gave him the courtesy — the respect — to include that ordinance as well as the other three. But I would love to see him there,” he said.

“I’m hoping that he shows up Saturday and at the remaining ones . . . We need him there.”

Ramirez-Rosa could not be reached for comment.

Reboyras said he’s not about to “pick a fight” with Ramirez-Rosa.

“My objective, my job is to make sure that we do this in a fair manner. Everybody listens. Everyone speaks. Then, we’ll work out the differences and hopefully we can come up with something we can all agree on,” he said.

“If folks cannot trust the process that we’re trying to introduce, my sense is they will not trust the end results moving forward.”

The public hearings are considering the long-stalled “Civilian Police Accountability Council” along with three more moderate proposals for civilian police oversight.

One was crafted by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability and includes the power to subpoena documents, fire the police superintendent, reversible only by a two-thirds City Council vote, establish police policy, choose the Police Board and hire and fire the Police Board president.

The other two were introduced by Reboyras and neuter GAPA’s proposal in favor of a civilian review structure that’s more advisory in nature.

Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot has accused Emanuel of blindsiding GAPA and betraying the promise he made to deliver meaningful civilian oversight.

On Friday, Reboyras was asked whether he has changed his opinion that the CPAC ordinance goes too far in tying the hands of the Chicago Police Department, the mayor and the City Council.

“I have not and, at this point, I will not,” he said.

“But if my [fellow] Council members agree to support one of the others, I have to agree to go forward.”

Reboyras is facing a tough fight for re-election against the daughter of retiring Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il.)

Jessica Washington Gutierrez has made Reboyras’ close ties to Emanuel a campaign issue.

But Reboyras said Friday he is “not running away” from the mayor, is still hoping for Emanuel’s endorsement and that there no way he will retire from politics to avoid the fight.

“Zero chance. I’m not working on any deals,” he said.

The veteran alderman also said he’s resigned to the fact that the four public hearings that remain could be raucous, no matter the format.

“I want the community to understand that we’re trying as hard as we can to make sure that everyone agrees with the process, everyone has input in what we do and, hopefully, we can come to some consensus,” he said.

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