Aldermen Sound Off on Next Top Cop, Calls to Abolish IPRA

City Council is set to vote on whether or not to confirm the mayor's pick for interim police superintendent, Eddie Johnson. But a recent report that Johnson's fiancee, a CPD lieutenant, could be caught in an exam-cheating probe has added a new wrinkle to the process.

Also, should City Council vote to do away with the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the police oversight agency, altogether?

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Ald. Leslie Hairston of the South Side's 5th Ward; Ald. John Arena of the Northwest Side 45th Ward; and Ald. Willie Cochran of the South Side's 20th Ward join "Chicago Tonight" to tackle these issues.

Below, some highlights from our conversation.

On City Council possibly circumventing police board rules for approving a new CPD superintendent

Hairston said it appears as though City Council will maneuver to circumvent police board protocol that says the board must choose the superintendent. City Council could vote to suspend the rules and then make a motion to consider Johnson’s nomination.

Arena said that idea concerns him.

“Why we’re here is because we’ve breached the trust. And to take rules and say we’re going to set them aside for the mayor’s whim doesn’t sit well with me,” Arena said.

“I don’t think it sits well with anyone,” Hairston said. “Sometimes it’s not what you do, it’s how you do. But the fact of the matter is that the mayor’s choice has been known. People, the aldermen, the public, the police seem to be on board and in support of him … It’s a double-edged sword, but the process is not good.”

On the accusation that Johnson’s fiancée cheated on the police exam

Hairston said she’s not concerned about the accusations.

“Study groups have been around for a long time. I know NOBLE [National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives] has one, I know several other officers have one,” said Hairston.

“What’s most disturbing to me is … we keep seeing qualifications popping up when it comes to African-Americans. And if you look at what’s going on in the police department and who the upper brass are, obviously there’s’ no cheating going on because they’re not in the upper echelons of the department,” she added.

Cochran, a former police officer, agreed, saying it’s common for study group leaders to know what’s on the exam.

“The protocol in the police department is to try to get the best people that you possibly can, give them the information that they need. If that’s cheating – I can’t say that,” Cochran said.

On dismantling IPRA

Hairston supports doing away with IPRA and replacing it with an independent citizen monitoring group.

“[IPRA head Sharon Fairley] has done a great job, and I think that Sharon would be good to apply for the monitor position. But let’s face it: Everybody that is still [at IPRA] is part of the problem,” Hairston said.

Arena said that while he supports making short-term changes in the midst of the Department of Justice probe, he has some reservations about a total dismantling of IPRA.

“I don’t think we should be jumping headlong into everything. We want to have hearings on this. We want to look at it and take it apart and see if it’s right,” he said.

“What I’m afraid of is, we get a new superintendent, we do this with IPRA, and everyone says, 'OK, everything’s fine at least within the powers that be.' But that doesn’t trickle down into the community that says, 'We still don’t trust the police department because you guys are messing with the process and making these changes in advance of the full report,'” Arena said.

Cochran said he is confident in Fairley.

“IPRA – the title – is the problem,” Cochran said. “Her leadership is not a problem for me. She’s demonstrated that she’s putting things in place right now to make the changes that are necessary. And she should be given that opportunity.”

Related stories from "Chicago Tonight"

Chicago Police Department Under Scrutiny Amid Cheating Probe

April 5: On Tuesday, a City Council member called for the abolishment of the Independent Police Review Authority, and a new report cites allegations that the fiancée of new police superintendent Eddie Johnson is part of a probe into cheating on a lieutenant’s exam.

CPD Insider Eddie Johnson Selected as New Interim Superintendent

March 28: In a surprise end-run, Mayor Emanuel shuns the recommendations of his police board and makes it known he wants Eddie Johnson to be police superintendent.

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Jan. 12: The Chicago Police Board is holding a public hearing on the search for a new superintendent, and African-American aldermen and community members reveal to us their short list for the job.

IPRA Chief Sharon Fairley Outlines Reforms to Agency

Jan. 4: Independent Police Review Authority acting chief administrator Sharon Fairley announced changes to the agency’s leadership and announced proposed reforms to the agency.

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