Mayor Emanuel Decides to Scrap IPRA

Some skepticism among aldermen on Monday after Mayor Rahm Emanuel reversed course and decided to do away with the Independent Police Review Authority.

In a Sun-Times editorial over the weekend, Emanuel announced the abolishment of IPRA and the creation of a civilian agency replace it. He also announced the institution of a public safety inspector general that will be able to audit the department at any time and audit the investigations that are done. In addition, he has proposed a community safety oversight board that oversees the entire apparatus of police accountability.

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The mayor writes, “I believe these guiding principles and key reforms will meet our goals for transforming Chicago’s police accountability structure and reflect the conversations and proposals that have been offered by aldermen to me.”

Emanuel was not available on Monday to comment or offer more details, and says he will work with aldermen to have an ordinance ready by June 22.

But two council members, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward), have ordinances that have already been introduced that propose the same reforms. They say they wonder why the mayor won’t simply go with them.

“Our ordinances are thoroughly vetted, supported in other cities, so we spent a lot of time working on them,” said Hairston.

“It’s already out there, it’s ready to go to committee, why reinvent the wheel,” Ervin said. Specifically, Ervin touted the need for a public safety inspector general.

“We need to prevent the next Laquan McDonald type case. We need to have someone vetting and getting access to the information,” he said.

Other aldermen said the mayor needs to bring the public in on any future reforms he decides upon.

“There’s been no details out there, it’s very vague,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward). “We need to have details, public forums and open discussion in City Council.”

Members of the Task Force on Police Accountability, a group the mayor put together to come up with these recommendations, chose to decline commenting specifically until more details were known.

Last December, the mayor decided to revamp IPRA, appointing former prosecutor Sharon Fairley to take charge. But it became clear that was not going to be enough, given the political momentum in the intervening months.

Strip clubs

There was renewed talk Monday of a law that would allow strip clubs to sell booze.

This is an ordinance pushed by Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward), and really advocated for by the owner of VIP’s A Gentlemen’s Club, Perry Mandera. His lobbyist on the issue is Brendan Shiller, son of former longtime Uptown Aldermen Helen Shiller.

Currently, rules governing alcohol at strip clubs are as follows: Fully nude establishments cannot serve booze; topless bars allow BYOB alcohol; and clubs that serve their own alcohol must ensure that dancers have their breasts partially covered and are wearing at least hot pants below the waist.

The new ordinance would allow alcohol sales at businesses where strippers are topless and wearing a G-string.

Sponsoring Alderman Mitts, who did not know the specifics of her ordinance, says it’s about getting more revenue

“We want to be able to serve alcohol,” said Mitts. “If you can bring your own bottle in, there ought to be some revenue instead. We need revenue, and if industries out there are operating, it’s our job to try to regulate it.”

The group Chicago Alliance against Sexual Exploitation is in strong opposition to this, saying that liquor and nudity are a toxic combo, and that it could encourage more strip clubs and more opportunities for abuse and sex trafficking.

City borrowing

On another front, the City Council Finance Committee on Monday approved an additional $600 million in city borrowing for infrastructure projects and police settlements

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz.

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