Emboldened Ramirez-Rosa to re-introduce most extreme civilian police review plan

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Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (shown in 2018) used a parliamentary rule to pry his police-oversight ordinance out of the committee where it had been stuck since 2016. He got a hearing for the measure, but it still went nowhere. He now hopes to revive it when the new City Council is seated. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Last fall, a City Council Committee shot down the most extreme of four pending proposals for civilian police review after one aldermen claimed the proposal was drafted to appease people who are “hateful of the police.”

On May 29, proponents of the so-called Civilian Police Accountability Council will try again, emboldened by support from 15 aldermen in a City Council that has taken a sharp turn to the left.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), chairman of the new Socialist Caucus, held a City Hall news conference Tuesday to announce plans to re-introduce a CPAC ordinance that still may be going nowhere, even after the changing of the guard at City Hall.

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot favors a less extreme version of civilian police review.

Ramirez-Rosa was joined by newly-elected Aldermen: Jeanette Taylor (20th); Mike Rodriguez (22nd); Felix Cardona (31st) and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd).

Taylor and Rodriguez-Sanchez are expected to join Ramirez-Rosa in the new Socialist Caucus.

Their plan, championed by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, calls for electing one representative from each of the city’s 22 police districts. They would serve four-year terms with a dedicated staff and an annual salary matching what aldermen are paid.

The elected panel would have an annual budget of $30 million and be empowered to: hire and fire Chicago’s police superintendent; establish police policy; investigate police shootings and other allegations of excessive force and police abuse; negotiate a police contract and pass judgment on police discipline.

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

Ramirez-Rosa acknowledged that he is still 11 votes short of the 26 needed for passage.


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But he argued that the grassroots movement behind the Civilian Police Accountability Council has “grown by leaps and bounds,” with support from “over 70” aldermanic candidates and 60,000 Chicago residents.

“We’re closer than we were four years ago. And if Mayor-elect Lightfoot stays true to her commitment to be a progressive mayor, to be a mayor who allows for a more independent City Council, then we’ll have the opportunity to work the votes and make the case that this is the best policy framework to address police misconduct and bring about true police accountability,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Ramirez-Rosa made no apologies for the $30 million-a-year budget at a time when the city is facing a $1 billion spike in pension payments and a budget shortfall that, according to Lightfoot, is more “dire” than she anticipated.

“We have the Police Board. We have COPA. We have various other city agencies involved in governing and disciplining the police. This does away with all of that and creates an all-civilian, fully-elected board,” he said.

“Ultimately, we will see a reduction in the amount of money that goes toward police oversight. But by creating a truly elected democratic body, we’re gonna be able to” reduce the parade of multi-million-dollar settlements stemming from allegations of police misconduct and excessive force.

The entire system of police accountability was overhauled in the unrelenting furor that followed the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

But, Taylor argued that yet another overhaul is desperately needed to restores shattered trust between citizens and police.

“The Chicago Police Department has a history of shooting black and brown folks and getting away with murder. Why is that OK? Forty percent of the city’s budget is spent on policing. Maybe you feel safe in your neighborhood. But I don’t in mine,” Taylor told the Sun-Times.

“Think about the people who sit on the [police] board. Those are ex-attorneys, police enforcers. How are those same folks who disinvested in our communities going to protect us?”

Taylor likened the fight for civilian police review to the ongoing battle for an elected school board.

“We’ve got an appointed school board. Now, they’ve got cases and cases of kids being molested,” she said.

“Think about CPD. … We’re over-policed. None of the officers come from our community. None of them look like us. Why is that OK? It has not worked, what they’ve done.”

Ramirez-Rosa waited two years for a hearing on the CPAC ordinance, only to have Public Safety Committee Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30th) use the hearing to bury the ordinance.

Before the vote, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who is African-American, had likened the ordinance to allowing the Ku-Klux Klan to “make a decision about me.”

“I felt hate when I was at some of these meetings. … Real hate,” Burnett said, referring to stormy public hearings on the issue held over the summer.

“You can’t resolve things when you use hate to try to resolve it.”

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