As Permanent Chicago Police Board Takes Office, Reform Advocates Push to Expand Its Power With Ballot Measure

Chicago Police Department Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)Chicago Police Department Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday confirmed six of the seven nominations made by Mayor Brandon Johnson to serve on a permanent commission that will oversee the Chicago Police Department as part of a new era for the beleaguered law enforcement agency.

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But even before Anthony Driver Jr., Remel Terry, Aaron Gottlieb, Abierre Minor, Kelly Presley and Sandra Wortham could be sworn in to serve four-year terms on the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, reform advocates introduced a proposal to expand the board’s power through a binding ballot measure.

Alds. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) and Marty Quinn (13th Ward) voted against all of the nominees except Wortham, the sister of a Chicago police officer slain in the line of duty.

The board will be one member short, as the nomination of Angel Rubi Navarijo failed to clear the Police and Fire Committee after Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward) objected to his nomination because he also works for Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th Ward.)

Two members of the interim commission — Driver and Terry — will serve on the permanent commission.

Johnson selected seven people to serve on the commission from a list of 15 nominees picked by a 22-member committee, made up of one elected police district council member from each of Chicago’s 22 police districts.

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 the commission’s 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.

The board was created in July 2021 after a bruising debate that culminated in a compromise measure that did not go far enough for many police reform advocates, who vowed to keep pushing for changes.

That effort got underway in earnest on Wednesday, with the introduction of a measure that would put a binding question on the November ballot to expand the seven-member board, known as the CCPSA, to 11 members, with nine members directly elected by Chicago voters.

The deadline to put the measure to voters is Aug. 5.

If approved by voters, that board would take on a significant amount of power now wielded by the mayor and City Council. Such a significant change would require either a change in state law approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor or a ballot measure approved by voters.

The measure seeks to expand the power of the CCPSA to give it the authority to approve the Chicago Police Department budget, to hire and fire the CPD superintendent, to appoint members of the Chicago Police Board and approve all labor agreements with unions representing police officers.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th Ward), who authored the ordinance that created the CCPSA, told reporters the introduction of the ballot measure serves to fulfill a promise he made after that legislation passed to keep pushing for reform on behalf of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety coalition.

However, it is not clear whether the proposal will have enough support to make it on to the ballot in November, with only the most progressive alderpeople in support. Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), a perennial opponent of police reform efforts, blocked the proposal from advancing Wednesday, complicating its path to the ballot.

Johnson has yet to endorse the push.

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

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