At a City Hall press conference Tuesday, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) pitched not only the abolition of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) but the creation of a new Independent Citizen Police Monitor with a new Chief Administrator at the helm.
Hairston’s ordinance, created in consultation with University of Chicago Law School’s Craig Futterman and research from the school’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability Clinic, would create a new regulatory body to review cases of alleged police misconduct. That new organization would have have a significant amount of power compared to IPRA. Specifically, it would amend how IPRA conducts its investigations by opening up police and misconduct data to the public, widening the scope of the Chief Administrator’s powers, and speeding up the release of information and the conclusion of investigations.
But Hairston was the only alderman at the podium Tuesday. “I have not talked to my other colleagues yet, but in the next coming weeks I will be doing so,” Hairston told reporters. She said she plans to speak to “all four caucuses.”
The proposed ordinance borrows from cities that have undergone recent police reforms, such as New Orleans, Newark, Seattle, Cleveland, and Albuquerque. Hairston said she has been working with Futterman and Sheila Bedi, a Northwestern University law professor, for the past few months to craft the ordinance.
“By the time we hold our next City Council meeting, it’ll make one meeting from when the Corporation Counsel reached another $5 million settlement with the family of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald,” Hairston said Tuesday morning. “This ordinance is… a direct response to years of biased investigations, lack of transparency and accountability, and failure to address patterns and practices of abuse.”
While current IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley has done a “great job,” the name of IPRA has “been tainted just like [CPD’s Office of Professional Standards] was tainted several years ago,” Hairston said.
Fairley’s been in the post for just over 100 days, and recently announced an external audit of at least 20 of IPRA’s closed police-involved misconduct investigations.
“She’s smart. She wants to do the right thing, but she’s being placed in an impossible situation,” Futterman said of Fairley. “She inherits the exact same staff, a staff that’s been proven to be biased, resulting in whitewashed investigations that has just simply created the veneer of accountability… instead IPRA has been a critical part of the code of silence that’s protected police officers from abuse.”
The ordinance makes several definition changes to the section of the municipal code governing IPRA. It amends the word “coercion” to include all implied threats, not just violent ones. It adds disability and mental illness to the definition of “targets of verbal abuse,” in addition to changing the definition of “excessive force”, includes definitions of sexual misconduct and domestic violence, biased police practices, and suspicious injury.
If the ordinance were enacted, Fairley would serve as interim until a permanent monitor is selected, and 90 days from passage, IPRA would be dissolved.
The new chief administrator would be picked by a selection committee. Inspector General Joe Ferguson would appoint selection committee members, drawn from civil rights, immigrants’ rights, and LGBTQ rights communities, one person from the faith based community, and one representing the Chicago Plaintiffs’ Civil Rights Police Misconduct Bar. Mayor Emanuel (or his designee), Interim Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson (and his designee), and Ald. Ariel Reboyras, Public Safety Committee chair, would also serve on the selection committee. The group would pick three Chief Administrator finalists, who would all have to be vetted by at least two public hearings.
Within two weeks of those public hearings wrapping up, the selection committee would vote on a candidate, whose nomination would then sent straight to the full City Council for a vote, bypassing committee.
The Chief Administrator would also be granted subpoena powers, as well as the power to investigate rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct charges against officers; First Amendment violations; denial of access to an attorney and all deaths or suspicious injuries in police custody. Civilian plaintiffs in litigation against cops wouldn’t have to submit a sworn complaint before an investigation is launched. The Administrator can also “compel prompt statements from members of the Department and re-interview Department members,” and to “immediately submit to tests for substances, physical evidence, and DNA.”
The ordinance bans CPD and other city agencies like the Office of Emergency Management Communications (OEMC, which maintains the city’s 9-1-1 system) from destroying evidence that might be used in an investigation.
The new body would be paid for using 1.5% of the Chicago Police Department’s annual appropriation. CPD’s proposed appropriation for 2016 was $1.45 billion, while IPRA’s was $8.4 million. Under the ordinance, the new Monitor’s budget would more than double, totaling around $21.7 million.
The Monitor’s office would maintain at least one full-time investigator for every 100 sworn officers in the department. CPD has more than 12,000 sworn members, as of its 2010 annual report, but allocated for about 13,800 full time employees in its 2016 budget proposal.
Neither investigators nor the Chief Administrator could be former employees of CPD or the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
Within 10 days of receiving the complaint, the Monitor would be required to publish information that triggered the investigation, CPD’s response to the complaint, and the public investigation history to “a live timestamped data feed… that conforms to open data standards.” CPD would also have to maintain a database with the complete complaint and disciplinary history for each officer, plus available video and 9-1-1 audio of the incident under investigation.
Her proposal comes just before Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked Task Force on Police Accountability is expected to release their recommendations on reform. The six member task force includes Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, who led the national search for the Chicago Police Department’s new superintendent. The list was recently tossed out by the Mayor.