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Untested Chicago Panel Vows Independence in Picking Top Cop

A new civilian commission faces its first real test in finding a new Chicago police superintendent as David Brown steps down from a tenure marked by increased violent crime, low morale and controversies on the rocky road to police reform, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability has vowed to find a "visionary" without bowing to an incoming mayor who will inevitably make the final pick. The commission will present three finalists by mid-July to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who lost her bid for reelection. While mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas have said they prefer promoting an insider, commission members insisted the incoming mayor won’t have outsized influence in recommending finalists and won’t be able to subvert the process, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel did when he rejected three finalists chosen by the Police Board and picked Eddie Johnson without the former superintendent even applying. “We’re not here to serve an administration, we’re not here to serve the City Council,” said Anthony Driver Jr., the commission’s interim president and executive director of the SEIU Illinois State Council. “We are here to serve the community.”

Following decades of calls for more civilian oversight of the police department, the City Council passed an ordinance in July 2021 creating both the commission and new councils covering each of the city’s 22 police districts. The district councils, which recently had their first elections, are charged with improving community relations with the police and nominating members to the commission. The commission also fills Police Board vacancies and has the power to select and remove the top official in the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, with City Council approval. It sets CPD policy and establishes goals for the department and those oversight agencies. During the search for the next superintendent, the commission will hold at least four public meetings across the city while also engaging officers, policing experts and community and advocacy groups “to ensure that our process is accountable and responsive to the needs of all Chicago residents,” Commissioner Remel Terry said. Driver said his team is looking for a leader who has experience working under a federal consent decree mandating sweeping police reforms. The CPD’s consent decree was enacted in 2019 after a federal probe of the police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald. “We’ve been researching folks who have had success, and what they’ve done in those cities,” Driver said. “And [the commission is] looking at if there’s a way to replicate that and/or make it better in Chicago.”


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