This week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the names of seven interim commissioners who will make up the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, Chicago’s first civilian police oversight board.
The group is charged with a tall order: rebuilding public trust in the Chicago Police Department.
The announcement comes about eight months behind schedule, which means it was a long wait for a short term. Because the members of the commission must be elected, this interim commission has only months until an election of three-member councils for each of the city’s 22 police districts is held next year.
Interim Commissioner Anthony Driver, Jr. said seeing the commission finally put into place is personally rewarding.
“I’m a person who is directly impacted by violence. I’ve lost 21 friends and family members to gun violence in the city,” Driver said. “The call for civilian oversight has been around since the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton and the days of Mayor Harold Washington. So for the last five years, I’ve worked to try to pass this ordinance, and now to be blessed with the opportunity to serve on the interim commission. I’m very grateful for it.”
The unprecedented step of including civilian voices in policing is the key to making the commission a successful endeavor, said interim Commissioner Remel Terry.
“I think civilian input allows for there to be equitable solutions that benefit the whole. Oftentimes decisions are being made in a silo, but here’s an opportunity to elevate community concerns and their voices to the forefront, allowing them to have buy-in to the decisions that are being made,” Terry said. “Here’s an opportunity for them to have power in what’s actually being determined and everything is out in the open, is transparent. And so what better time than any for all of this hard work that went into creating this legislation to happen now?”
While the commission is just days old, interim Commissioner Cliff Nellis said the group agrees that their first goal is to get the word out and encourage people to run for the permanent commission in 2023.
“I believe all of us selected for this position by Mayor Lightfoot was because of our deep connections to the local community. So it will be upon all of seven of us to make sure that we are getting into the community and making sure that people are made aware of this new opportunity, the significance of it, the importance of it, the value it can bring to their family, to their block, to their neighborhood and their community, the city of Chicago, and to policing in general,” Nellis said. “I just think we’ve got a great commission. I’ve been really pleased with my seven colleagues and I think we're up for the task.”