Aldermen on City Council’s Public Safety committee just barely made up for last week’s lack of quorum, making it over the threshold by one member after starting nearly 30 minutes late. The group voiced strong support for Andrea Zopp’s appointment to the Police Board, despite criticism that Zopp could not act as an independent voice after her recent 18 months serving as deputy mayor.
Attendance: Chair Ariel Reboyras (30), Gregory Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), Patrick D. Thompson (11), Ed Burke (14), Raymond Lopez (15), Matt O’Shea (19), Walter Burnett (27), Carrie Austin (34), Emma Mitts (37), Harry Osterman (48)
A group of police reform advocates said last week it was “a clear conflict of interest when a mayoral ally joins a police oversight agency,” and that it was “imperative that the Police Board, with its critical role in police discipline, be shielded from the influence of Chicago politics.”
After a lack of quorum and a no-show from Zopp last week, the committee recessed and rescheduled to Monday.
The nine-member board decides disciplinary matters involving police officers, nominates candidates for superintendent of police to the mayor, and proposes reforms to the police department. Its current president is Lori Lightfoot.
Members may collect a $12,000 stipend and the president can accept a $15,000 stipend. Lightfoot and three of the board’s members do not collect the stipend. All are appointed by the mayor and subject to City Council approval. Zopp was also recently appointed to serve as CEO of World Business Chicago.
Zopp was not present at Friday’s committee meeting, but was present Monday, and pointed to her time as an assistant U.S. attorney as her best qualifier for the board. “My history on police accountability proceeded knowing who Rahm Emanuel was, much less working for him,” Zopp said.
“I went to the U.S. Attorney’s office because I learned there were very few people that looked like me, very few women, very few people of color. I worked hard to make sure the justice system worked for everyone,” Zopp said. She ticked off high-profile cases she prosecuted, including the Ford Heights Four, Congressman Mel Reynolds’ sex abuse trial, and the shooting of an unarmed homeless man by Chicago police officer Gregory Becker.
“I advocated for Supt. [Garry] McCarthy’s resignation and for the Department of Justice investigation,” she continued. “Long before I came to work for Mayor Emanuel I have a track record of advocating for these issues. I’ve had several public roles… and stood up for what was right regardless of whether it’s popular.”
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19) agreed. “I’ve known Andy Zopp longer than most. She’s taken bad cops off the street. She’s prosecuted corrupt policemen. In addition to putting the real criminals, each and every day, out of the street, she’s been a voice for the underserved, the underrepresented, and we’d be lucky to have her.”
“We all believed the Police Board was just a pass-through board, but I have more confidence now with the board becoming a board of substance because you will be on the board,” Ald. Carrie Austin (34) affirmed Monday.
Just two members of the public spoke against Zopp Monday. Concerned citizen George Blakemore said there are “many other people in the black community who can do this job and do it better. She has been recycled from one agency to another.”
Karl Brinson of the West Side Chapter of the NAACP said Zopp’s appointment does little to instill community trust in the police reform process. “How is it looking like reform when we have the same people sitting on these same boards? We can’t continue doing this,” Brinson said. “People want to be served, protected, respected, represented. This is not going to work. This is not building trust. We have to do better than this.”
Chair Ariel Reboyras (30) retorted after Brinson walked away from the microphone, saying the board was independent.
Brison returned to the microphone to say, “The true word for independent means separate and apart. It is appointed by the mayor and appointed by this City Council.”