The District Council members and members of the citywide Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability are wholly new positions in the City of Chicago. In fact, the Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance will create the most democratic police accountability system in the country. It is critical that Chicagoans pass the ECPS Referendum during the 2022 November election in order to further strengthen this police accountability system. At the district level, it is imperative that we encourage all law enforcement to (ACT) with Accountability, Competency, and Transparency.
Police have an enormous responsibility to serve and protect our communities. They are even authorized to use deadly force if needed and to, of course, arrest offenders who break the law. Because Illinois law permits the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers, it is critical that there are strong systemic checks against abuse of power and that individual police are held accountable for their actions. I strongly supported the passage of the SAFE-T Act into law in 2021, and I worked closely with legislators and other stakeholders to ensure that any changes in the associated trailer bills still maintained the integrity of the original bill’s intent requiring accountability. In fact, the amended language regarding when officers are allowed to view their body-worn camera footage after an incident closely mirrored the language I had proposed. This language allows officers to continue to do their jobs unimpeded while ensuring the integrity of investigations into officers who have been involved in shooting incidents, incidents resulting in death or great bodily harm, and officers with misconduct complaints.
Body Cameras: Prohibits an officer or their supervisor from redacting, labeling, duplicating, or altering the recording officer’s camera recordings. Clarifies that a recording officer and their supervisor may access and review recordings prior to completing incident reports unless they: (1) Have been involved in or a witness to an officer-involved shooting, use of deadly force incident, or use of force incidents resulting in great bodily harm; or (2) Are ordered to write a report in response to or during the investigation of a misconduct complaint against the officer. Permits the officer in question, subject to their supervisor’s approval, write and file an amendatory report after viewing the recordings, and supplemental reports under this provision must also contain documentation regarding access to the video footage. Prohibits the altering, erasing, or destroying of non-law enforcement related activity or encounters from the officer-worn body cameras prior to the expiration of the 90-day storage period and if so, requires a 1-year preservation of record detailing the name of who tampered with it and the reason.
The District Councils will be a critical piece in holding officers in our district and the city as a whole accountable. District Council members will nominate members of the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability. The Commission will have the final say over policy for the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the Police Board. The Commission shall also have the power to select or remove the Chief of COPA and under the current structure can select, subject to confirmation from the Mayor, or issue votes of no confidence in the Superintendent of the CPD and members of the Police Board. Members of the District Councils will also report findings within their district to the Commission and can recommend policies and priorities system-wide, including accountability from top to bottom.
We, as a community and a city, deserve a competent police department that effectively deploys resources towards violent crime. The Chicago Police have a budget of nearly $1.7 billion dollars and yet, as our shootings, carjackings, and other serious crimes have risen, we see no increase in arrests or clearance rates. Chicago has the second most police per capita of major cities in the country and yet this hasn’t been shown to impact our rate of crime or the clearance rate. This can be explained, in part, by the fact that though the CPD has 11,500 officers barely 10% of them are detectives.
For years, politicians and CPD Superintendants chose to throw resources behind, “shows of force”, hiring more beat cops rather than focusing on highly specialized and trained detectives who are needed in order to solve the most violent cases in our city. As it is often said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As a member of the 17th District Council I will take our CPD leadership to task regarding clearance rates and push them to adopt best practices from around the country to improve outcomes in our communities. We deserve better clearance rates from our department, more effective preventative measures, and more professional interactions with victims and witnesses, no matter what crime is being reported. With a budget of $1.7 billion dollars, there is no excuse for why Chicago doesn’t have a more professionalized organization.
The Chicago Police Department has a truly embarrassing clearance rate when it comes to many violent crimes, and yet last year, 2021, they reported a homicide clearance rate of 48%. However, what CPD leadership reports as a clearance does not necessarily translate into an arrest. In 2021, the actual arrest rate for homicides was just 24%. We need a police department that will not only provide data in a truly transparent way but one that will provide data in a digestible way for those most impacted. When elected to the 17th District Council, I will work to ensure that data released by the 17th District to the community is provided in a truly digestible way and that the data is not presented in a misleading fashion.
The District Council will also hold monthly public meetings where residents can provide input about policing in the district. I believe that these monthly meetings should rotate through each neighborhood in the 17th District in order to provide residents from every corner of the district the opportunity to be seen and heard. It would also offer the members of the council an opportunity to present districtwide data to residents. As a district council member, I would insist all meetings be livestreamed via social media platforms and/or remote broadcast platforms, like zoom or google meet, and to also make sure that translation services are available. Having a transparent process at both the District Council level and within the Department itself is absolutely critical if we’re to expect anyone to gain trust and faith in the system.