Mayor announces task force, residents propose ordinance



On Dec. 1 Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Task Force on Police Accountability. 

By metro reporter

Following the video release of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer and within hours of firing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Dec. 1, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of the Task Force on Police Accountability. 

The Task Force on Police Accountability will  have a five member panel to review the system of accountability and training of CPD officers, recommend changes to ensure officers who have multiple complaints against them are investigated and establish the best practices for releasing videos for police-related incidents, according to a Dec. 1 press release. 

“The shooting of Laquan McDonald requires more than just words,” Emanuel stated in the press release. “It requires that we act; that we take more concrete steps to prevent such abuses in the future, secure the safety and the rights of all Chicagoans, and build stronger bonds of trust between our police and the communities they’re sworn to serve.”

According to the press release, the Police Board has begun its search for a new superintendent to replace McCarthy. 

A city ordinance requires that when there is a vacancy in the superintendent’s position, the Police Board has to nominate three candidates for consideration by the mayor, the press release stated. 

After Emanuel made the announcement of the task force, a group of protesters spoke out against it and presented their own Fair Cops Ordinance.

A group of protesters from the Community Renewal Society—a faith-based organization that works to eliminate class and race barriers—countered the creation of the task force by proposing the Fair Cops Ordinance, which stands for freedom through accountability, investigation and reform for community oversight of policing services, according to the CRS’s Dec. 1 press release. 

According to the press release, The Fair Cops Ordinance would create a police auditor office staffed by attorneys, researchers and administrators who would have access to all police records and data to analyze patterns of police misconduct or bias and recommend changes in policy. 

“Please do not be fooled by this task force—this is not the first time we have seen this in our history of Chicago where a committee is formed. There is no committee needed,” said the Rev. Chris Griffin, a member of the Community Renewal Society who spoke outside the mayor’s office at City Hall shortly after the task force was announced. “We need an independent auditor, we don’t need a task force.” 

Griffin said members of the Community Renewal Society called for police reform after Laquan McDonald’s death last year but when Emanuel agreed to a meeting—which he said was around the time of Emanuel’s re-election—McCarthy was not present.

Pastor Cy Fields of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church and also a board member of Community Renewal Society, said the group’s next step is to present the ordinance to aldermen for their support. 

Fields said the ultimate goal is to have an independent auditor “that can have transparency, accountability and with integrity, address every citizen complaint regarding Chicago police officers.”

Fields said a fundamental change and transparency are needed within the community and the police department that goes beyond firing McCarthy. 

The city will also require six additional police districts to wear body cameras by mid-2016, according to a Nov. 29 press release. The program will be funded by $1.1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and $1.1 million in city funds, according to the press release. 

Testing sites for the cameras will be announced soon, and the cameras, which can record up to 72 hours on a single charge and double as an in-vehicle recording device, will be purchased in February, according to the press release. 

Donavahn Frierson, a senior design major and graphic designer for Columbia’s Black Student Union, said the mayor’s task force is a step in the right direction, and the expansion of body-worn cameras should hold more officers accountable. 

Frierson said he does not know if body cameras would have prevented the death of McDonald, but he said the cameras could cause those wearing them to reconsider their actions.

Frierson said the task force should help ensure accountability, but he said he could not say for sure because the task force has been created so recently.

The recommendation for the Task Force on Police Accountability is set to be presented to Emanuel and the City Council by March 31.