Over 1,500 faith and community leaders rallied on Monday to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the annual Community Renewal Society Faith in Action Assembly, held in First Baptist Congregational Church on Chicago’s West Side. We launched an effort to create the Chicago FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability, Investigation and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services) Ordinance, and we won commitments from 19 city and state elected officials to improve police accountability, enact fair tax reform, and increase job opportunities for people with criminal records. The assembly culminated in a forum with the Democratic candidates for the Cook County State’s Attorney, who responded to community concerns about police accountability, violence prevention, and criminal justice reform.
“Dr. King’s voice was one for justice, demanding that those in power do what is right,” said Rev. Eddie Knox, Jr., the pastor of Pullman Presbyterian Church and Board President of Community Renewal Society. “When black and brown people are constantly at risk from police violence, when our communities are destroyed by economic injustice, we must stand up and demand commitment to real action now!”
FAIR COPS Ordinance
Alderman Roderick Sawyer, the chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus, committed to introduce and work to pass the FAIR COPS Ordinance, which would create an Office of Police Auditor in Chicago (similar to what exists in other big cities including New York and Los Angeles). The Police Auditor would be appointed by a third party, independent of the mayor, given the power to investigate and address patterns of police misconduct by individual officers, as well as across the entire police department. We thank Aldermen Walter Burnett, Jr., Ricardo Muñoz, and Emma Mitts who committed to co-sponsor the FAIR COPS Ordinance.
Police Accountability Reform and Removing Barriers to employment for People with Records in Illinois
State legislators committed to improve police accountability by changing state law to specify that a sworn affidavit cannot be a requirement to file a complaint of police misconduct. The affidavit requirement intimidates many community members and deters them from filing complaints for fear of retribution from police officers—in turn allowing abusive police officers to remain on our streets and endanger lives. State legislators also committed to support SB 42, which would create job opportunities in health care for people with criminal records.
Resolving Illinois' Long-Term Budget Issues by Passing a Fair Tax
State legislators additionally committed to supporting a Fair Tax in Illinois with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes. Year after year, the State of Illinois’ budget deficits have resulted in devastating cuts to education, public safety, health care, and many other human services. A large part of the budget crisis is due to Illinois’ flat income tax system, which allows millionaires to pay a lower effective tax rate than the majority of middle class and low-income families. A Fair Tax would help to resolve Illinois’ long-term budget issues.
Platform for Renewal in Illinois
We thank the legislators who committed to support CRS’ 2016 Legislative Platform for Renewal, which includes police accountability reform, removing barriers to employment for people with records, and a Fair Tax: Senators Daniel Biss, Jacqueline Collins, Don Harmon, Kimberly Lightford, Heather Steans, and Patricia Van Pelt, and Representatives Kelly Cassidy, William Davis, Laura Fine, La Shawn Ford, Robyn Gabel, Greg Harris, Camille Lilly, Christian Mitchell, and Emanuel Chris Welch!
Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic Candidates Forum
All three Democratic candidates for Cook County State’s Attorney—Anita Alvarez, Kim Foxx, and Donna More—committed to support a pre-plea Restorative Justice diversion program for adults, providing seed money to peace hubs from the State’s Attorney's budget, expanding deferred prosecution and Mental Health Court eligibility, and publicly supporting SB 42 and progressive criminal justice reform. Kim Foxx was the only candidate to pledge her support for the appointment of a special prosecutor for all police involved shooting; Anita Alvarez and Donna More did not support that position. All three candidates agreed to have an open door policy for Community Renewal Society, and similar groups, and expressed a willingness to hold quarterly meetings with our leadership.
Every year we gather to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by putting our faith in action and demanding that elected decision-makers support initiatives that advance racial and social justice in Chicagoland. Help to keep the momentum going from our powerful day of testimony, prayer and action.