Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Tuesday bit the hand that fed him a new four-year term—-by demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel honor his promise to seek federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
At City Council hearing on his reappointment, Ferguson climbed aboard a crowded bandwagon that already includes Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups and Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes federal court oversight over local police departments. But Ferguson said Emanuel “unequivocally can and should pursue” a consent decree with or without the DOJ as a willing partner.
Without it—and with a mere memorandum of agreement “with a Justice Department that has no real interest in enforcing constitutional policing”—there can be no legitimacy or public confidence, he said.
“It’s a second-best world at best to go down that path. And it’s a second best world that, unfortunately, would only work in a city where everyone believed in the good faith and best efforts of everybody else. That is not the city that we live in right now,” Ferguson told aldermen.
Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel has promised an
“independent monitor with real credibility holding our feet to the fire and issuing regular public reports so the community can hold our feet to the fire” with “yet another backstop” that allows the Justice Department to “go into court and enforce the terms if we are breaching” it.
Ferguson doesn’t buy it. He wasn’t consulted before the memorandum of agreement was drafted, but has seen it since it was sent to the DOJ for approval.
He described it as a “shackled” version of the deputy inspector general for public safety “with a narrow band of issues,” more money, but “no enforcement power.”
Ferguson pointed to three areas where court oversight has a “distinguishing characteristic.”
They are: “public legitimacy” at a time when there is “no trust”; the fact that a court order “has a different impact” than a public report and the fact that a federal monitor appointed by a judge would have the power to mandate reforms, including changes to the police contract, no matter what the cost.
Ferguson even reserved some choice words for Madigan, who beat the inspector general to the punch by pressuring Emanuel both publicly and privately to agree to federal court oversight.
“I’ll be perfectly candid. My first reaction when I saw that was, ‘Where the heck have you been the last two years?’” he said.
Ferguson’s voice is a formidable one.
That’s because he just hired Laura Kunard to serve as the city’s $137,052-a-year deputy inspector general for public safety whose 21-employee, $1.8 million unit will audit police practices, recommend changes to the police contract and bird-dog the new system of police accountability system.
Black Lives Matter Chicago and other community groups have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking federal oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
After a private meeting with the mayor, Madigan said Emanuel is “scared” of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department and the decades of financial pressure that would put on beleaguered taxpayers.
On Tuesday, Ferguson said he sympathizes with the mayor’s fear. But he argued that his role in policing city hiring helped the city get out from under Shakman and could do the same with police reform.