At issue: Real Independence for Police
Oversight Agencies

Top city lawyer Steve Patton told City Council members the administration will address concerns about independent budget authority and legal counsel for new police accountability agencies.

He testified last Tuesday before a joint budget and public safety committee hearing on the mayor’s ordinance establishing a Civilian Office of Police Accountability and an Inspector General for Public Safety. A vote on the ordinance is expected onSeptember 29.

Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, chair of the mayor’s Task Force on Political Accountability, said she would support the ordinance with the inclusion of independent budget and legal counsel provisions.

Other concerns remain, Paul Strauss of the Civil Rights Coalition for Police Accountability told View from the Ground, including a ban on hiring former CPD members as investigators at the new agency. The coalition also wants City Council review when the police superintendent rejects recommendations of the inspector general.

Transparency issues also remain unresolved, according to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) in his ward newsletter.

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who chaired community hearings on the topic, said 40 percent of over 400 people who testified backed an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, DNAinfo Chicago reported.

CALL ON THE COUNCIL: Noting that the City Council is supposed to be a legislative body, a Trib editorial asks aldermen, “Why are you behaving as if your role is simply to vote up or down on the mayor’s plan?”

Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur

The “fatal flaw” in Chicago’s police accountability structure has been “lack of independence,” and a new ordinance must “wall it off from City Hall,” according to the Trib.

The editorial noted that “calls for community control” heard at hearings “were neatly sidestepped” by Emanuel’s decision to postpone creation of a community oversight board.

The present crisis demands that we “renew democratic practices,” writes Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute at Crain’s. A “messy and raucous, free-form and ad-hoc process” reflecting the upsurge in popular concern over police misconduct has resulted in four competing ordinances for replacing IPRA, and the council should go beyond considering the mayor’s ordinance and conduct a “full assessment of the relative merits of different proposals” on a range of issues.

The danger is a repeat of the history of “a ‘reform’ that proves little more than a change in acronyms,” Kalven writes.

Veteran civil rights lawyer Flint Taylor tells WBEZ that without community control ofthe police department, “you’re going to continue with the same recurring problems that we’ve faced for 50 years.”

FEDERAL INDICTMENT: A federal grand jury indicted Chicago Officer Marco Proano for civil rights violations in a 2013 incident in which Proano shot into a carload of unarmed teens.

In December, 2013, near 95th and LaSalle, Proano shot sixteen times into a car with six unarmed black teens as it backed away from him, injuring two. The driver had been pulled over for speeding.

Three teens settled a lawsuit against the city for $360,000 — and as in the Laquan McDonald case, the settlement was conditioned on not releasing the video. But Judge Andrew Berman provided the video to the Chicago Reporter last June, saying he thought Proano should be removed from the police force.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declined to prosecute Proano, but in August theIndependent Police Review Authority recommended he be fired, according to the Sun-Times.

Previously Proano was cleared by IPRA in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Niko Husband in 2011 during an altercation outside a party. In a lawsuit by the family, a jury found Proano had used excessive force, but in a controversial move, the trial judge overturned the verdict.

Proano’s indictment is the first federal indictment of a Chicago officer in a police shooting in years. From 2000 to 2015 — while local police shot 702 civilians, 215 fatally — not one officer was brought up on federal civil rights charges related to a shooting, the Tribune reported in August.

DEVELOPMENTS: Mayor Emanuel plans an address on violence that will call for mentoring — and possibly raise the issue of absentee fathers in black families, the Sun Times reports. Mary Mitchell argues Emanuel lacks the credibility “to get up on a moral high horse about poor parenting in the black community.”

Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur

Also at the Sun-Times, columnist Marlen Garcia hopes an amendment to the city’s immigrant sanctuary ordinance banning mistreatment of immigrants by city employees amounts to more than “lip service.”

The ordinance will set a standard for stricter consequences in abuse cases involving immigrants, advocates tell Garcia. After tanning salon manager Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek was threatened with deportation and slapped while handcuffed during a 2013 raid, officers got “light suspensions” because “city laws lacked explicit language to serve as a basis for harsher punishment.”

But it “doesn’t mean anything unless there is a functioning accountability system,” one advocate tells Garcia.

The Tribune reports on the two-day de-escalation training that CPD wants to give to the entire 12,500-member force within a year. So far 200 officers have taken the training, but only three supervisors and no command staff. One officer who was skeptical at first was “a convert” by the end of the training, according to the Trib.

Business leader Willie Wilson, former candidate for mayor and president, bailed out six Cook County Jail inmates, kicking off his plan to spend $15,000 on bail. 
“Some of these kids were just picked up on the street doing nothing,” Wilson told WBEZ. “Some of these kids just had a little ounce of marijuana and [are] locked in jail for two or three months — or years. That don’t make sense.”

CONTINUING CASES: Ben Baker, whose narcotics possession sentences were overturned in January after he served a decade in prison, is suing the city and 17 police officers, including convicted former Sgt. Ronald Watts, for his wrongful conviction. Baker maintains he was arrested because he refused to give Watts a bribe.

Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2013 after being convicted along with one of his officers of taking $5,200 from a federal informant they thought was a drug courier.

At the time of Watts’ arrest in 2012, NBC5 reported that allegations that Watts’ unit shook down drug dealers for protection money “date back more than ten years” and that at least a half dozen additional officers in the same South Side district were under investigation. The officers were also suspected in the deaths of two dealers who threatened to expose the racket, according to NBC5. But no further indictments have been forthcoming.

In June the city agreed to pay $2 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit by two Chicago officers who said they were subject to retaliation by their superiors when they investigated Watts.

Last year Baker’s attorney, Joshua Tepfer of the Exoneration Project, told WGN Radio there could be many others falsely imprisoned due to retaliatory arrests by Watts and company.

Meanwhile, one of 11 members of CPD’s Special Operations Section convicted on corruption charges is seeking a sentence reduction, citing his cooperation with theFBI. Jerome Finnigan’s lawyer said he has identified two CPD supervisors who participated in warrantless searches and filed false reports and told about a Chicago police officer working with a border agent to rip off drug dealers.

“There’s no evidence from the public record that any of those tips has resulted in a criminal prosecution,” according to the Sun-Times.