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Hispanic Caucus endorses civilian police oversight compromise Lightfoot rejected

The council members say the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo unmasked a “broken” system of police accountability and deep distrust that requires “robust civilian oversight and community control” over CPD.

Chicago City Hall
The Chicago City Council’s Hispanic Caucus is endorsing a measure to create a civilian panel to oversee the Chicago Police Department.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A majority of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus has endorsed a civilian police oversight plan — one already rejected by Mayor Lori Lightfoot — to fix what it called a “broken” accountability system unmasked by the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, said Wednesday there is a “growing mistrust” of the Chicago Police Department in communities of color that can be reversed only by “robust civilian oversight and community control” over CPD.

That’s precisely what would happen under the compromise ordinance crafted by two groups that have long pushed dramatically different versions of civilian police oversight: the Civilian Police Accountability Council and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.

Five aldermen in the 13-member Hispanic Caucus did not participate in the vote to endorse the compromise. The vote was 7 to 1.

Under the compromise, Chicago voters would be asked to approve a binding referendum on the 2022 primary ballot empowering a civilian police oversight commission to hire and fire the police superintendent, negotiate police contracts and set CPD’s budget.

Lightfoot would lose the power to hire and fire the police superintendent. Her Law Department and hand-picked negotiators would lose the power to negotiate police contracts.

And Lightfoot and aldermen would be stripped of the power they now hold to establish the CPD budget, ceding that power as well to an 11-member civilian oversight commission composed of nine elected commissioners and two mayoral appointees.

Elizabeth Toledo and son Adam are pictured in this family photo.
Elizabeth Toledo and her son Adam.
Cortesía

Even if voters reject the binding referendum, the 11-member commission would have the final say in disputes over police policy unless two-thirds of the Council decides otherwise. The commission also would be empowered to take a vote of no-confidence in the superintendent and hire and fire the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

“The Toledo family — they’ve been left in the dark, according to the reports that I have seen or read. In other instances last year and previous years, victims and families of victims — primarily families of color — they are left in the dark when a loved one is shot and killed by police. Justifiable or not. But they don’t know. They have no information. They are not providing to the families any information,” Maldonado said.

“What the [Toledo] family is asking of the police [is], ‘Give us the tape. Show us the tape. We are entitled to see that video. Why can’t you do it?’ I believe that an independent, elected commission would be responsible and, hopefully, would make sure those things would not happen and allow the community to retain trust in the police, especially communities of color.”

Lightfoot has argued she alone “wears the jacket” for Chicago violence and she’s not about to “outsource” responsibility for CPD to a civilian police oversight commission.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader, sided with the mayor; he did not take part in the caucus’ vote.

“Mayors must be held accountable for both. For the crime that happens in the streets and the education that happens in the schools. My advice to the mayor is, you cannot abdicate those responsibilities to anybody,” said Cardenas, whose Southwest Side ward includes the Little Village neighborhood where Toledo was killed.

“Unless the mayor is part of that, I don’t think it’s gonna pass. I don’t think it’s gonna go anywhere because that’s what they hire the mayor for. There’s two things they must do well. That’s crime and education. The rest of it is gravy. Why would you have somebody that’s gonna make those kinds of decisions while you’re trying to run the city? What if they run it further into the ground?”

The approximate location where Chicago police killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, in an alley near 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue.
The approximate location where Chicago police shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo, in an alley near 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Earlier this week, Lightfoot vowed to hunt down and hold accountable adults responsible for “putting a gun in to the hands” of Adam Toledo.

How does she know the 13-year-old had a gun in his hands if she hasn’t seen the bodycam and security camera video of the shooting?

“While I have not seen the video, I’ve clearly gotten a significant number of briefings about the circumstances there. But I won’t say more because I don’t want to get ahead of or unduly influence the COPA investigation, the detective investigation and the state’s attorney investigation,” she said.

COPA has said “troubling video footage” from the scene of the shooting will be released a soon as possible, but only after the Toledo family has an opportunity to see it first.

Lightfoot said she has no idea when that will be and is “frustrated” it hasn’t happened.

“Ms. Toledo deserves some answers. She’s obviously expressed an interest in seeing multiple videos. And I think she has a right to. So I’m hoping that that gets scheduled sooner, rather than later,” the mayor said.