Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday that he is abolishing the agency that currently investigates police misconduct and replacing it with a civilian department that he said will have more independence and resources to do its work.
Emanuel’s announcement came a month after a task force recommended the move in a report that said police in the nation’s third-largest city have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of colour” and have alienated blacks and Hispanics for decades by using excessive force and honouring a code of silence. The Task Force on Police Accountability had recommended replacing the “badly broken”Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, with a “new and fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency.”
IPRA had been criticized for slow investigations of complaints that seldom led to discipline.
“It is clear that a totally new agency is required to rebuild trust in investigations of officer-involved shootings and the most serious allegations of police misconduct,” Emanuel wrote Friday in an essay announcing the change.
He said details about the new agency’s makeup and duties will be worked out in the coming weeks and presented at a City Council meeting on June 22.
Emanuel also said he would appoint a public safety inspector general to “audit and monitor policing in Chicago,” and a Community Safety Oversight Board to oversee the city’s entire “policy accountability system.”
“We know that in order for police accountability to be truly effective it has to have the support and trust of the community,” recently appointed IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, said in a statement. “I believe this commitment will start the process of building a system that will engender that trust.”
Lori Lightfoot, who chaired the task force and heads the Chicago Police Board, said the mayor’s proposal may be an important step.
“The devil will be in the details,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “How it will be different (from IPRA) is a fundamentally important question.”
Emanuel, a Democrat, announced the creation of his Task Force on Police Accountability when he fired police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the wake of public protests over the 2014 shooting by a white police officer of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black. A video of the shooting, released last year, contradicted police accounts that McDonald was threatening officers before he was shot.
The changes come amid a U.S. Department of Justice investigation to determine whether Chicago police have systematically violated residents’ rights.
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