Push to Create Permanent Chicago Police Oversight Board Begins

A push to create a permanent board of Chicagoans to oversee the Chicago Police Department as part of a new era of oversight for the beleaguered law enforcement agency began in earnest on Monday.

Applications are now open to serve four-year terms on the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which is designed to give Chicagoans real control of the police department as part of an effort to build trust in officers and police brass and put an end to repeated allegations of misconduct. The deadline to apply is Feb. 7.

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“Today marks the next step in the long journey to put the people of Chicago at the center of public safety and policing in our city,” said Sam Schoenburg, a member of the three-person district council overseeing the Town Hall (19th) Police District, which includes Lakeview.

Schoenburg was one of more than five dozen Chicagoans elected in February to oversee CPD, which is governed by a court order requiring city leaders to change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers. 

A 22-member nominating committee, made up of one elected police district council member from each of Chicago’s 22 police districts, will nominate 14 people to serve on the seven-member commission, also known as the CCPSA, that will oversee the entire department and set citywide public safety policy.

Mayor Brandon Johnson faces an April 7 deadline to pick seven commissioners from those 14 nominees and send them to the City Council for confirmation.

“We are looking for qualified individuals who are passionate about shaping public safety,” said Ephraim Lee, a member of the district council overseeing the Wentworth (2nd) Police District, which includes Hyde Park.

With the exception of the police district council members who served on the CCPSA nominating committee, police district council members can apply to serve on the commission but would be required to resign from their elected police district council position before joining the commission, said Adam Gross, the executive director of the CCPSA.

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed seven interim commissioners to lead the new police oversight agency in August 2022 after a series of lengthy delays and setbacks. 

Once in office, the interim commission, led by President Anthony Driver, Jr., wasted no time in exercising its authority, voting to scrap CPD’s gang database and to ban officers from associating with hate groups and extremist organizations.

The commission also conducted a nationwide search for a replacement for former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, selecting Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling as one of three finalists. Tapped by Johnson, Snelling was unanimously confirmed by the Chicago City Council.

Along with former Police Board President Ghian Foreman, Driver led the fight against a ruling from an arbitrator that would upend the system used to discipline officers for serious misconduct by allowing individual officers to choose to have their punishment decided by the Chicago Police Board or an arbitrator.

Driver told WTTW News Monday he would apply to serve a four-year term as a permanent commission member. 

Giving a board of 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.

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.

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 to conducting the search for a new police superintendent, when necessary, the commission is also charged with filling 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.

The president of the commission will be selected by a vote of the commissioners and be paid $15,000 annually. Commissioners will earn $12,000, according to city law.  

All seven commissioners must have lived in Chicago for at least five years, and the CCPSA must be made up of at least two North Side residents, two South Side residents and two West Side residents, according to the rules. 

In addition, at least two commissioners must be attorneys with expertise in civil rights, civil liberties, or criminal defense or prosecution. Another commissioner must have experience in community organizing. Two other commissioners must be between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the rules. 

However, commissioners cannot have worked for CPD, COPA or the Police Board in the past five years, according to the rules.

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

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