Over two years ago, all eyes were on Ferguson when Mike Brown was murdered by a police officer, while holding his hands up. What happened in Ferguson was not an isolated incident, but a systemic issue within law enforcement agencies across the country.
In Chicago, while other communities are “protected,” African-American communities are “policed.” African-American communities have been victimized by discriminatory policing practices that have led to abuse and criminalization. Statistics show that, across the board, all law enforcement entities have failed to hold police officers accountable for abusive policing practices.
In Chicago, a black man is nine times more likely to be shot by the police than a white man, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) sustained cases (found fault) six times lower than the national average, and the Chicago Police Board dismissed only 1/3 of the officers recommended for separation by the Superintendent and IPRA.
Community Renewal Society member congregations voted to address these injustices. After a number of listening sessions and research actions, the Police Accountability Issue Team identified the need for an auditing function for police oversight. In April 2016, our FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability, Investigation, and Reform through Community Oversight of Policing Services) Ordinance was introduced by Alderman Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward.
The FAIR COPS Ordinance calls for true transparency of reporting, reform power and analysis of complaints against police to identify patterns and trends.
Initially, Mayor Emanuel refused to acknowledge the problem of abusive policing practices and the lack of accountability. In fact, he stated that we simply had a case of a few bad apples. We knew this was definitely an institutional problem, and so we fought to bring recognition to the problem and to create real solutions. While meetings with the Mayor and aldermen, protests and community meetings raised public awareness and challenged the political decision makers, they failed to change the current system of policing in Chicago. After the release of the Laquan McDonald video and the constant pressure of the community, Mayor Emanuel changed his tune! On October 5, 2016, Mayor Emanuel passed his ordinance to replace IPRA with the Civilian Oversight of Police Accountability (COPA), and create the Office of Inspector General of Policing (CRS in the News).
The CRS Police Accountability Issue Team is disappointed that the Mayor’s ordinance lacks the reform power our city deserves. We are also displeased that Chicago aldermen voted on this ordinance, despite the pleas of community members to delay the vote. This was an injustice to our communities, and CRS must continue to organizing to bring true reform to our policing system. We need aldermen who are willing to break free from the Mayor’s control to create the reform that our communities need and expect.
Your fight was not in vain.
We must celebrate our accomplishments! Because of our hard work and persistence, the Office of the Inspector General of Policing was created. We proposed this idea to the Mayor, and when he said no, we fought until he said yes. We also fought for the enforcement power, transparency and independence that are currently part of the Mayor’s ordinance. However, this is not enough. We must now focus on a Community Oversight Board that will give the community the additional reform power and oversight that’s needed. In the weeks ahead, we will be calling on our faith communities to plan and participate in community conversations, as part of a larger community initiative with 11 other activist groups. Our goal is to identify our communities’ vision for a Community Oversight Board and then to develop a City Council ordinance creating such a board.
Together we’ve accomplished so much. Let’s continue together in the fight for justice. Register to attend a community conversation on Police Accountability.