Mayoral ally accused of negotiating in a vacuum again on civilian police review

SHARE Mayoral ally accused of negotiating in a vacuum again on civilian police review

Chicago City Hall. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A mayoral ally was accused Tuesday of negotiating in a vacuum — again — in an attempt to rush through a watered-down plan for civilian police review months before the mayoral and aldermanic election.

Mecole Jordan, coordinator for the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, said the scenario playing out at City Hall is virtually identical to what happened in March.

That’s when Public Safety Committee Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30th), one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closest City Council allies, introduced two rival plans that neuter the proposal the Grassroots Alliance crafted after 18 months of public hearings. Reboyras’ plans instead favor a civilian review structure that’s more advisory in nature.

Gone from those rival plans were the all-important power to fire the police superintendent, establish police policy, choose the police board and head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and fire the police board president and the COPA chief.

Also missing was subpoena power and any mention of it taking a two-thirds vote of the City Council to reverse a firing of the police superintendent ordered by the civilian oversight commission.

Now, Jordan is accusing Reboyras and the mayor’s office of doing the same thing all over again in an attempt to draft what they’re calling a “compromise” proposal for civilian police review in time for consideration at next week’s City Council meeting.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Ald. Ariel Reboyras. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Once again, the Grassroots Alliance has been left out in the cold.

“The city of Chicago is never going to yield control to the community in any real way. That’s the driving force here,” Jordan said Tuesday, condemning what she called the “business-as-usual, top-down approach.”

“To go back behind closed doors again without having a real conversation with the community — particularly after these five community meetings happened — is another mistake. We can’t hurry up and do the wrong thing. Too many lives are riding on this.”

Jordan said the fast-approaching Feb. 26 mayoral and aldermanic election is clearly the driving force.

“This is something they’re trying to get passed before too much of the election season sets in. But I don’t think hurrying up and doing something to get ahead of the election season will be the answer. In fact, I think it will have the opposite effect. There will be an outcry from the community . . . about the city continually shoving this down our throats,” she said.

Reboyras, whose daughter graduated from the police academy Tuesday, did not return repeated phone calls. Walter Katz, the mayor’s point man on police issues, could not be reached.

A top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that the mayor’s office is hoping for approval of a compromise at next week’s Council meeting.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), the chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus who co-sponsored the GAPA proposal, said he still believes Reboyras can be fair, even though his daughter is a police officer and the police union opposes any form of civilian police review.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) | Sun-Times file photo

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) | Sun-Times file photo

“Just because his daughter joined the police department, I don’t think that hinders his ability to enact some rules that make sure the police are doing their jobs correctly. I still believe he can administer this fairly,” Sawyer said.

“Reboyras has been actually pretty great about this. He’s been someone that’s been listening and understands. I know his ideas haven’t been well-received. He acknowledges that. He’s trying to do what’s necessary to craft something that will benefit a majority of Chicagoans.”

As for the push to approve a plan next week, Sawyer said: “I’m more interested in doing it right than doing it quickly. My concern is to make sure we have something that’s substantive that’s not just window dressing. I’m not as much in a rush as some others are. I’m not trying to avoid it either.”

Two weeks ago, Reboyras vowed to “wear the jacket” for devising an acceptable plan for civilian review and said he hoped to draft a “none-of-the-above” substitute that’s “not a complete takeover, but involving the community so there is some oversight.”

Reboyras said then that the biggest problem may be persuading his colleagues to take a vote on whatever language he comes up with.

“I’m not sure that my colleagues really want to deal with it,” he said.

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