In its never ending cycle to constantly oversee its officers, Chicago has decided to create another oversight board. Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed the Civilian Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. The ordinance itself seems redundant since Chicago already has the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. It is their mission to advance the culture of policing and build trust in civilian oversight.
Many details of this board will be coming out in the coming weeks, but as of right now we have an idea about how it will be nominated. The article states that the commission will be chosen by the city council and the mayor. And the nominations will be chosen by three member councils from each of the cities 22 police districts. Two of these members must be between 18-24 and must have experienced police misconduct. Having two members who have experienced police misconduct is extremely dangerous. It might seem like a good idea to have people who have experienced legitimate police misconduct, but in today’s society almost anything could be police misconduct and they will most likely be heavily biased towards police.
Even though this oversight board was formed, Mayor Lightfoot did take some lessons from Oaklands firing of its police chief. The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability wanted to be able to have a vote of no confidence in the superintendent to trigger some action from the mayor or the City Council, they did not get it. Staff of the mayor stated that Oakland’s decision to fire its police chief without cause hardened Mayor Lightfoots decision not to give Chicago’s board this power. Even though Chicago is creating another police oversight board, Mayor Lightfoot is not willing to give them as much power as Oaklands Police Commision.
Examples of the Oakland Police Commission’s overstepping of power include even the simplest examples of what they were willing to do. One example cited had to do with towing violations, which a Commission member attempted to have the police clear for her. Eventually, the police chief who would not clear the violations was terminated. This set an alarming precedent for future police chiefs: do us favors, or lose your job. While this connection has, of course, been denied, the parallels can still be drawn. This type of abuse of power has dangerous and far reaching effects on law enforcement in terms of both officer safety as well as the ability to perform their jobs.
Even though Chicago has just created a new oversight board, policy making will rest with the Chicago Police Department. This oversight board is in the beginning stages of being formed. More will be coming out in the coming weeks. In the grand picture, the decision of the Oakland Police Commission to fire its police chief might curb the power of the future oversight boards around the country. When the Chicago Mayor is not willing to grant the board this power, you know they went too far.