After a two-year wait, police reform advocates will finally get a City Council hearing and vote on their plan to abolish the Police Board, get rid of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and replace both with an elected, 22-member council.
In a surprise about-face, Public Safety Committee Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30th) has scheduled a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to consider the plan championed by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.
Just last week, Reboyras, one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s staunchest City Council allies, dismissed the plan as radical and said he had no intention of giving it a hearing.
But Reboyras changed his mind to avoid a City Council floor fight that could have embarrassed Emanuel and put his colleagues on the spot.
It happened after Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) vowed to use a parliamentary maneuver known as a Rule 41 to force a City Council vote on the stalled “Civilian Police Accountability Council.”
“I’d rather see him pull it out of the Rule 41, which means he doesn’t have to put on a show on City Council day . . . But he doesn’t want to do that. He’s not listening to what the chairman is asking him to do. So now, it’s gonna be done my way. Then, maybe he’ll get the message,” Reboyras said Friday, referring to Ramirez-Rosa.
“He’s forcing my hand … He’s wasting everybody’s time. I told him I don’t think anyone’s gonna vote on this matter. But he just wants to give these people some airtime. I’m gonna give him that opportunity.”
Late Friday, Ramirez-Rosa offered to withdraw his parliamentary maneuver if Reboyras agreed to give the CPAC ordinance “the same treatment as the other ordinances on police civilian oversight,” including community hearings. So far Reboyras has not been willing to do that.
Last week, Ramirez-Rosa all but acknowledged that he didn’t have the votes for his ordinance but said that wasn’t the point.
“What we’ve accomplished is bringing forth the demand that 50,000 Chicagoans have said they want to see . . . They are owed a vote on the floor. This is democracy,” the rookie alderman said.
The CPAC proposal is the most draconian of four rival proposals for civilian police review.
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.
“They want to do it all. They would get rid of COPA. Get rid of the Police Board. They’d have the power to do subpoenas. We have the Law Department that does that. COPA does investigations. There’s no reason to put another layer on there to do the same work that’s conducted today. It’s just too egregious,” Reboyras said.
“They’re untouchable. If we file a case against any member of their team, we’re subject to no less than a $5,000 or $10,000 lawsuit. So we can’t question how they do their work. I mean — it’s out there. I think we can make it work with the three we have going. I don’t think we need this one.”
After burying CPAC, Reboyras plans to hold public hearings across the city on 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.
Police Board President Lori Lightfoot has accused Emanuel of blindsiding GAPA and betraying the promise he made to deliver meaningful civilian oversight.