It’s back to the drawing board after stormy hearings on civilian police review

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

A mayoral ally vowed Thursday to “wear the jacket” for devising a more modest and politically-palatable plan for civilian police review after presiding over “very hot” public hearings that turned into a “big shouting match.”

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, said he hopes to draft a “none-of-the-above” substitute ordinance that includes some level of civilian review, but not the amount included in the two most stringent proposals.

“We’ve got a couple weeks to see what we can do to put something together that’s not a complete takeover, but involving the community so there is some oversight,” Reboyras said.

“We want oversight. I want to make that clear. I’ve said that all along. It’s just that I don’t know that we can have complete oversight.”

Reboyras acknowledged that he’s guaranteed to anger somebody, no matter what he comes up with. That’s how volatile an issue civilian police review is. It’s not a recipe for getting re-elected. The Fraternal Order of Police opposes all levels of civilian police review.

“Very hot. Whatever form we use is gonna be hot no matter what. I’m gonna wear the jacket,” he said.

Reboyras described the public hearings as a “big shouting match,” adding, “If nothing else, we gave them an opportunity to voice their opinion, whether mild or loud. We realized that the roundtable did not work. The standard testimony worked well. We gave everybody an opportunity to voice their opinion.”

The plan championed by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression has been languishing in the Committee on Public Safety for nearly two years.

It calls for the election of one representative from each of the city’s 22 police districts to a four-year term with a dedicated staff and an annual salary that would match what aldermen are paid.

The elected panel would be responsible for hiring and firing Chicago’s police superintendent and establishing police policy. It also would investigate police shootings and other allegations of excessive force and police abuse, and pass judgment on police discipline.

The Police Board and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability would be abolished.

The public hearings included the CPAC plan 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.

Reboyras said he’s working with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Harry Osterman (48th), GAPA co-sponsors, to draft an acceptable compromise with an assist from the Law Department.

But the biggest problem may be convincing his colleagues in the full City Council to take a vote on whatever they come up with as the aldermanic election fast approaches.

“I’m not sure that my colleagues really want to deal with it. It’s a very, very sensitive issue. And I can understand this. I just hope they work with me on this matter because I can’t do it alone, unfortunately. I don’t want to be the guy that makes the decision,” he said.

“I just hope I get some participation. We know it’s a very sensitive issue. I don’t know that anyone is gonna be happy with whatever we decide on.”

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