At Issue: COPA in Chicago

The mayor’s office is meeting with aldermen to discuss an ordinance replacing the Independent Police Review Authority with a Civilian Office on Police Accountability (COPA) and establishing an inspector general for public safety.

According to reports, the new agency would have additional power to investigate illegal stops and arrests. Former employees of the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State’s Attorney could not serve as investigators for a five-year period.

Critics including Ald. Scott Waguespack say the ordinance does not go far enough in ensuring the new agency’s independence. It does not remove the new agency’s budget from the annual appropriations process or provide additional resources for the new inspector general. And it does not give the new agency authority to hire its own independent counsel, maintaining a requirement that it go through the city’s law department and creating a possible conflict of interest.

(Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

Emanuel’s office has said it expects the City Council to vote on the proposal — which is yet to be finalized — at its September 14 meeting. Some council members are saying more time will be needed.

Transcriptions of recent community hearings on police reform are available via the IPRA Tracker, a collaboration of City Bureau and the Invisible Institute. It includes collections of unpublished reports, law enforcement documents, and side-by-side comparisons of proposed ordinances. It’s designed as a tool for public information and input; users can add annotations to crowdsourced sections.

POLICE SHOOTINGS: Chicago police killed 92 and wounded 170 in 435 police shootings between 2010 and 2015, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis. African Americans accounted for 80 percent of those shot by police; whites accounted for 6 percent.

The city turned over the data to the Tribune after the paper threatened to sue following a seven-month battle over a public records request.

MORE DATA: Last week the Tribune filed a motion asking a state appeals court to mandate immediate release of Chicago Police Department records of civilian complaints of misconduct going back to 1967.

The move came a week after the Illinois Supreme Court denied a motion by the Fraternal Order of Police to stay a July 8 appeals court order releasing the records. The FOP wanted the order stayed pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. The union has filed for leave to appeal but it has not yet been granted.

(Citizens Police Data Project)

In July the appeals court found that contract clauses mandating destruction of complaint records were “legally unenforceable” since they conflict with the city’s responsibility to comply with FOIA requests.

The Tribune argues that the Supreme Court’s denial of the union’s motion to stay the order removes all legal impediments to releasing the records.

TRAUMA: It’s not uncommon for children in Chicago to experience violent interactions with police, and when they do the effects can be long-lasting, experts tell the Chicago Reporter.

The Reporter looked at 63 police misconduct lawsuit involving minors that cost taxpayers $24.6 million between 2012 and 2015. Officers receive little training on how to interact with children to minimize the risk of trauma, according to the report.

Meanwhile, as many as 20 percent of police officers exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, both from involvement in violent incidents and from the “daily grind of being an officer,” WBEZ reports.

Officer Brian Warner, who shot and killed an arrestee after being shot himself by the man, leads a support group called Chicago Police Survivors and says the department should do more to support officers.

ALTERNATIVES: A coalition of community organizations is planning a Community Peace Surge for Labor Day Weekend, and the response is growing, according to organizers. The effort includes neighborhood peace patrols, interventions and mediation, and activities to engage youth.

It comes in response to the FOP’s call on its members to turn down voluntary overtime over the weekend.

It might be an example of the kind of alternatives to policing promoted by young activists calling for the abolition of the police, as profiled in the Chicago Reader. The call is more a strategy and goal than an immediate demand, one supporter says. It has roots in the prison abolition movement and, in Chicago, in efforts to reduce youth incarceration. Those efforts have engendered a range of alternative projects for reducing conflict, like peace circles involving youth who’ve been involved in gangs and the criminal justice system.

One such alternative (not associated with the abolition movement) is the daily vigil of Mothers Against Senseless Killing, who’ve taken over one of Englewood’s most violent corners and succeeded in reducing tensions and preventing shootings on the block. The strategy is stopping violence by building community, WBEZ reports — but now a local landlord has complained to police about the activity.

Appearing on Chicago Newsroom, peace surge organizer Phillip Jackson of the Black Star Movement doesn’t sound like an abolitionist. “I like the police,” he said. “I don’t like bad policing. I want the same policing in Englewood as in Barrington.”

(Chicago Newsroom)

And CPD can alienate its supporters — like musician and activist Rhymefest, who tells the Sun Times he has friends who are officers and has defended the police in recent debates. But when he went to the Grand Crossing station Saturday to report a robbery, he says he was “treated like a criminal” and told to leave. CPD has apologized for the incident.

Mayor Emanuel apologized too, promising the officer involved would be disciplinedand saying he’d “guarantee [police] won’t treat another resident like this.” Rhymefest told Mark Brown he didn’t believe the mayor’s guarantee; on Chicago Tonight the rapper said he appreciated the department’s response but called Emanuel’s apology “empty.”

DETECTIVES: Chicago’s murder clearance rate of 46 percent over several years is one of the lowest in the country and far below the 68 percent average for large cities, Reuters reports. (Earlier this year, DNAinfo reported that CPD had solved just 26 percent of the previous year’s homicides.)

Hundreds of murders have gone unsolved as the number of homicides soars, putting pressure on a dwindling detective force. Only 8 percent of CPD’s sworn personnel are detectives, compared to 15 percent in New York City and Los Angeles.

Another factor could be lack of diversity in detective promotions, the Sun Times reported in June. Though blacks and Latinos account for two-thirds of the city’s population, only 28 percent of detective promotions since 2006 went to black or Latino men; 55 percent went to white men.