What does a police district council member do?

For the first time, Chicagoans will serve on newly elected councils to influence policing in their districts. What that looks like in practice remains to be seen, but the ordinance establishing them lays out some basics.

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Each of the city’s 22 police districts will be represented by a three-member council, which will serve as a bridge between the community and the police.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Chicago has many layers of government, including the alderpeople who make up the city council, the person in charge of the city stickers and the person everyone knows about — the mayor.

But what exactly are their responsibilities?

WBEZ’s Tessa Weinberg has an overview of who the city’s voters elect every four years and what they do.

Here’s what a police district council member does:

Police District Council member

Salary:$500 a month

Term:4 years. You can serve on a district council for a total of 12 years in your lifetime.

How many are elected:66 in total, with three members for each police district

What do these councils do?

For the first time, Chicagoans will elect councils to influence policing in their districts. What that looks like in practice remains to be seen, but the ordinance establishing the district councils lays out some basics.

Each of the city’s 22 police districts will be represented by a three-member council, which will serve as a bridge between the community and the police. They’re tasked with developing and implementing community policing and restorative justice initiatives, and the community will convene forums to raise concerns about topics such as “police interactions with youth and people of all immigration statuses,” for example. District councils must hold public meetings at least once a month, and councils across the city will meet regularly with each other to share trends.

Why is this job important?

They were created by an ordinance the City Council passed in 2021 and were borne out of calls for increased civilian oversight in the wake of the court-ordered release of video showing police fatally shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.

The inaugural district councils will have the opportunity to shape a new model of civilian oversight for the city and have a direct influence on their neighborhood’s relationship with police.

The district councils will also play a crucial role in who will serve on the newly created Commission for Public Safety and Accountability — a seven-member citywide body with wide-ranging oversight over the Chicago Police Department’s policies and budget. The district councils nominate commissioners, who must then be chosen by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

The commission can cast a vote of no confidence in the Chicago police superintendent or a Police Board member and can remove the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The interim commission started meeting in September and has already weighed in on issues like the police department’s new gang database.

Learn more:

Tessa Weinberg covers Chicago government and politics for WBEZ. Follow her @tessa_weinberg.

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