In the months since the world saw video of Chicago Police Department ex-officer Jason Van Dyke shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, citizens and activists have called for systemwide reform. On Friday (May 13), Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced what he sees as the next step in the process.
Emanuel—who has taken heat for his role in delaying the release of the incendiary video—wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times in which he announced his plan to disband the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). NPR writes that the Authority has only upheld two percent of all claims lodged against officers, with most of them actually being held in limbo with no resolution. It’s the same body that the mayor’s own Police Accountability Task Force described as “badly broken”:
Almost since its inception, there have been questions about whether the agency performed its work fairly, competently, with rigor and independence. The answer is no. Cases go uninvestigated, the agency lacks resources and IPRA’s findings raise troubling concerns about whether it is biased in favor of police officers. Up until recently, the agency has been run by former law enforcement, who allowed leadership to reverse findings without creating any record of the changes. IPRA has lost the trust of the community, which it cannot function without.
The task force suggested that the IPRA be replaced with a Civilian Police Investigation Agency, and in his essay, Emanuel said he will propose exactly that at the June 22 city council meeting. It will be just one part of what he calls “a comprehensive plan to fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability.” That plan will also include a new public safety inspector general who will audit and monitor policing in the city, with the goal of identifying and addressing “emerging problems and trends in order to prevent acts of abuse from occurring in the first place.”
And a new Community Safety Oversight Board made up exclusively of Chicago residents will oversee the accountability system:
Consistent with the task force’s recommendations, this board will hold public meetings and require regular public reporting from the police department, the new civilian investigative agency, Police Review Board and public safety inspector general. It will also be empowered to request audits and make improvements. The new board will give a voice to Chicago residents whose lives are affected daily by police practices. It will also provide a forum for our police department to respond to concerns and share information. Public dialogue is essential to building a common understanding of how best to keep our communities safe.
Lori Lightfoot, who led the task force investigation, told the Chicago Tribune that while Emanuel’s announcement is an important step, “the devil will be in the details. How it will be different [from IPRA] is a fundamentally important question.”