City’s first Police District Council members sworn in for ‘historical opportunity’

The councils will relay concerns and ideas to police from Chicago residents and nominate candidates for a panel that will help choose the next police superintendent.

SHARE City’s first Police District Council members sworn in for ‘historical opportunity’
Newly elected Police District Council members are sworn into office on Tuesday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

Newly elected Police District Council members are sworn into office Tuesday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

More than 60 Chicagoans who were elected to 22 new Police District Councils took their oath Tuesday, beginning a new era of community oversight for the Chicago Police Department, which has long been plagued by abuses that have damaged trust and discouraged residents from working with cops.

The inauguration, held at the Harold Washington Cultural Center on the South Side, drew nearly a dozen elected officials and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who administered the oath. Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not attend, leaving the limelight to Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson.

“These miraculous individuals have made history to unite our city around values that we were raised on,” Johnson said.

The councils — set up by a 2021 ordinance that also created the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability — each consist of three members, who will serve four-year terms.

The councils are expected to hold monthly public meetings with police officers to relay concerns and ideas from district residents about policing and public safety. Other duties include expanding restorative justice and community policing efforts and nominating candidates for the community commission, a panel whose roles include recommending candidates for police superintendent.

Mecole Jordan-McBride, the founding coordinator of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, a coalition that helped craft the ordinance, said when the effort started in 2016, they were “trying to figure out, and looking coast to coast around what a commission could look like and doing so much research. And then we started drafting ordinances, and it just seemed impossible.

“Yet here we are,” she exhaled. “And it is because of the hard work of so many people that joined together and refused to let go until we got the ending that we knew we wanted and deserved.”

Those people include Frank Chapman of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, who sat in the auditorium’s front row and received two standing ovations as speakers hailed his work.

Deondre Rutues, a community organizer elected to a West Side district council, told WBEZ it will be a challenge “to build some consensus around what people in this Austin community want to see.”

A priority issue, he said, is addressing a police traffic-stop strategy in high-crime neighborhoods that Rutues called “driving while Black.”

Carmelita P. Earls, a retired Chicago Fire Department deputy district chief who will serve with Rutues on the Austin council, won her seat by a single vote.

“It’s a historical opportunity,” Earls said. “And now I must do my work and play my role, which is police accountability and public safety.”

Earls said the councils’ early tasks will include educating Austin residents about a court-monitored police reform agreement known as the consent decree.

“Right now, a lot of people have mixed emotions about the police,” Earls said. “When you call the police department, no one wants to see them. Because it’s indicative that someone is going to jail.”

Chip Mitchellreports on policing, public safety and public health for WBEZ.

The Latest
Just before 10 p.m., a group of men were in the street in the 700 block of South Albany Avenue when they were struck by gunfire from an unknown number of shooters, Chicago police said.
If you are avoiding the massive touring shows, here are some alternatives — both free and ticketed — that will keep you busy through Labor Day.
He’s destroying property and setting a bad example for the children with his tantrums, and his wife wants out.
How comfortable a guest can get depends on the size of the party, their relationship with the host and the limits and boundaries the host establishes.
"[The biggest difference] was a desire to win,” Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon said. “We were hungry to get it done and we bettered ourselves in the second half.”