Chicago mayoral hopefuls pitch changes to police union contract

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Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

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Five of Chicago’s 14 candidates for mayor proposed changes to the contract with the city’s largest police union at a Tuesday evening forum.

The mayoral hopefuls took stabs at ideas for working around an often dicey relationship between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police to reform a Chicago Police Department that is grudgingly moving toward correcting years of civil rights abuse accusations.

The debate came during round two of WTTW and the City Club of Chicago’s two-part forum, with five other candidates facing off the day before at the public television station’s studios on the Northwest Side.

Asked by moderator and TV anchor Carol Marin what concrete change he would look to make in the FOP contract, former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy said its disciplinary process needs to be simplified and taken out of the Police Board’s hands.

“The FOP needs to really come into the 21st century and realize that policing has changed,” McCarthy said. “The police superintendent is not in charge of the discipline of the CPD, yet he or she is accountable for all that behavior.”

Lori Lightfoot, the former head of the Police Board, said a proper disciplinary system has to include access to officers’ full complaint records, which the current police union contract does not allow.

Lightfoot said Mayor Rahm Emanuel has failed to “stand up to the FOP” and has allowed the union too much leeway in police decisions.

“This mayor has stood silent through outrageous conduct by the FOP,” Lightfoot said, claiming Emanuel has given up on negotiations for a new contract.

Gery Chico, former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, said any changes to the FOP contract cannot hold precedent over the consent decree — a wide-ranging document meant to govern sweeping reform at CPD — that was approved last month by a federal judge.

FOP leadership had wanted a seat at the table in the consent decree discussions, but a federal judge — and later an appellate court — denied its attempts to intervene.

“We should take advantage of this consent decree and limit some of the things that the FOP would ordinarily ask,” Chico said. “If we insist and we scrupulously implement it, it will cut back some of their power.”

State Rep. La Shawn Ford said his changes to the FOP contract would start with educating officers about race in an effort to curb racism in the department, a problem he says affects the South and West sides.

Amara Enyia, director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the FOP contract needs to foster better transparency on officers’ disciplinary records.

Hot dogs and Malort

Marin asked the candidates the two most important questions of the heated race for mayor: Do you put ketchup and your hot dogs, and do you drink Malort?

Ford received jeers when he said “yes” to breaking a (unofficial) city law by putting ketchup on a hot dog.

McCarthy, Chico, Enyia and Lightfoot all said they would not use the red condiment.

As for Malort, Lightfoot said “only under duress.”

Enyia said “you cannot be a Chicagoan if you have not tried it.” McCarthy, in response, said he’s never tried it but “apparently I have to, so I’ll try it and then I’ll say no.”

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