Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a coalition of community groups announced Monday morning they reached an agreement to create an elected board of Chicago residents to oversee the Chicago Police Department, paving the way for a decisive vote.
The agreement — reached following a weekend of negotiations after a vote on the contentious issue was delayed Friday — could end years of intense debate over how best to ensure the Chicago Police Department no longer routinely violates the constitutional rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans.
“If passed, this ordinance would bring an historic, transformative and balanced approach to civilian oversight,” according to a joint statement from the mayor and the coalition that heralded the proposal as “landmark legislation.”
The decision by the mayor to back the ordinance crafted by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) coalition comes less than a month after Lightfoot told reporters that the coalition’s plan was a “backdoor attempt to defund the police department by taking control of the policymaking authority.”
The crucial sticking point in negotiations between Lightfoot and the coalition of community organizations centered on the push to fundamentally shift control of the police department from the mayor’s office to elected members of the community.
The proposal set for a vote by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee at 5 p.m. Tuesday would give the board the final say on policy for the Chicago Police Department — but would also give the mayor a veto that could be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the Chicago City Council.
If endorsed by the Public Safety Committee, a final vote by the full City Council would be scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The City Council was poised to pass a previous version of the proposal to create an elected board in March 2020, but the conflict over whether the mayor or the board would set policy for the Chicago Police Department doomed the plan crafted by the Grassroots Association for Police Accountability, known as GAPA.
Even though Lightfoot backed that plan during her 2019 campaign for mayor and vowed to pass it during her first 100 days in office, she demanded that the mayor have the final say on policy just before a vote of the City Council.
In September 2020, she dropped her support of the plan from GAPA entirely, and nine months later introduced her own proposal, which has failed to win more than nominal support from aldermen.
The ECPS ordinance would create a two-tiered system of accountability for police officers by focusing on each of the 22 police districts as well as citywide. It would recommend candidates for police superintendent and the Police Board to the mayor.
The elected board would have the power to hire and fire the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, which is the agency charged with probing police misconduct, according to the proposal set for a vote.
In addition, the proposal would allow the elected oversight board to pass a resolution of no confidence in the superintendent and any member of the Chicago Police Board with a two-thirds vote. That could trigger City Council action.
A council made up of non-citizens would advise the commission on issues impacting Chicago’s immigrant and undocumented community, according to the proposed ordinance.
For 16 months, Lightfoot vehemently opposed all of those provisions, repeatedly saying that ceding that kind of authority would make it impossible for the mayor to keep Chicago safe. Her proposal would have given the board’s elected members only the authority to advise the mayor.