New Era of Police Oversight Dawns with Election of District Council Members

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

More than five dozen Chicagoans were elected Tuesday to oversee the Chicago Police Department as part of a new era of oversight for the beleaguered law enforcement agency.

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Starting in May, each of Chicago’s 22 police districts will be overseen by a three-person council as part of an effort to rebuild trust in the Police Department, which is governed by a court order requiring city leaders to change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers.

Once the 66 members of the police district councils take office, they will nominate seven people — to be confirmed by the mayor and Chicago City Council — to serve on the commission that will oversee the entire department and can set citywide policy.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, designed to give Chicagoans a real say in how the department operates, is the final change demanded by advocates to be put in place in the wake of the 2014 police murder of 16-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Read More: Full 2023 Chicago Election Results

Seven candidates for police district councils across the city backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, appear to have won their elections, according to unofficial results from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. In all, the police union backed 17 candidates.

“This was a grassroots, poor people’s campaign that delivered a resounding defeat to the FOP, who did their best to undermine these elections,” said Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “This result represents a very decisive victory for the people of Chicago, particularly for Black and Brown communities who have suffered the brunt of police crimes.”

In the 16th Police District, which stretches from Portage Park to O’Hare Airport on the Far Northwest Side of the city, two candidates backed by the police union won seats on the district council, giving them a majority. Two candidates backed by the police union also won seats on the 22nd Police District Council, overseeing the Far Southwest Side of the city, including Beverly and Morgan Park.

A candidate backed by the police union running for the police district council in the 15th District appeared to have narrowly lost her bid, according to unofficial results from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that could change as more ballots are counted.

The police union’s political fund reported spending $15,410 on a flyer supporting Dan Richman, who appears to have narrowly lost his bid for the 19th Police District Council, which will oversee the area around Lakeview.

However, all three candidates backed by the police union in the 25th Police District lost their races, including Pericles Abbasi, a lawyer who represented the police union in its unsuccessful bid to prevent candidates backed by progressive groups from running as a slate. The union paid Abbasi $25,000 for that work.

The interim Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability has been meeting since August and wasted no time in exercising its authority, telling Chicago Police Department officials to scrap plans to launch a new system to track Chicagoans they believe to be members of gangs and blasting Lightfoot for crafting a $1.94 billion Chicago Police Department budget that does not ensure Chicago is policed “effectively or equitably” because it lacks “a long-term, data-driven strategy to reduce violence.”

The commission has the final say on policy for the Chicago Police Department, but the mayor can veto its decisions. In turn, the mayor’s action could be overridden by a two-thirds vote by the City Council.

“Last night, history was made after a 50-year struggle,” said interim commission president Anthony Driver. “With district councils, we are one step closer to having real community voice in how we are policed."

The commission will have the power to hire the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, which is the agency charged with probing police misconduct.

In addition, the commission will conduct a search for a new police superintendent when that position becomes vacant and fill empty spots on the Chicago Police Board, which disciplines officers.

The commission will also have the power 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.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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