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More Chicago Police Discipline Cases Go To Arbitrators

After Dexter Reed fired at Chicago police officers during a traffic stop and hit one in the forearm on March 21, police responded by firing 96 times in 41 seconds, and killing him, according to footage released by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability on Tuesday. The officers who fatally shot Reed, 26, could now be investigated by a police union-backed arbitrator rather the city’s appointed civilian board, thanks to a March ruling by Cook County Judge Michael Mullen. Since Mullen's ruling, a dozen cases have requested to appear before an arbitrator. Though Mullen’s ruling also stipulated that those arbitration proceedings would be open to the public — over the Fraternal Order of Police's arguments to keep them private — academics and activist still have concerns about true accountability, Courthouse News Service reports. “We risk a return to a state of police impunity,” said Craig Futterman of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Clinic at the University of Chicago’s law school. 

David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in police reform, echoed Futterman’s sentiments about the importance of a civilian police board. “Citizen oversight itself, as an idea, is kind of hard to argue with, in the sense that if you have a government in a democracy, you should have citizen oversight of important government functions,” he said. Neither the city nor the police union have challenged Mullen’s ruling. Many have been left wondering what this means for the future of the civilian police board, which ultimately does not have the power to fire police officers, but can make recommendations to Police Superintendent Larry Snelling. The police union maintains that arbitration is the proper manner for disciplinary proceedings, because civilians don’t have the expertise to adjudicate these cases. Mullen's ruling stems from a lawsuit in which the union argued that the city council overstepped its authority when it voted down an ordinance that would have sent all instances of police misconduct to private arbitration rather than the city’s review board.


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