Steve Craig. CAARPR
Chicago’s police crime crisis continues to simmer as a host of players offer slapdash solutions. “Experts” on police accountability and oversight demand transparency and community “involvement” or “input” and promise to procure this by appointing the proper seriously independent and unbiased fellow experts. Most of the recent proposals have been advanced by politicians, policing professionals and self-anointed community leaders. They all stumble early on in the oversight alphabet, from advisory to appointed, and share a common disdain for democracy.
The people of Chicago, especially in oppressed African American and Latino communities, are tired of this game of follow-the-leader. There is a growing movement for real change coming from these communities that demands community control of the Chicago police, not oversight or advice. The proposed ordinance for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council would give this power to the people.
CPAC is mentioned in an appendix of the mayor’s appointed Police Accountability Task Force report and is dismissed out of hand, democracy being “susceptible to cooptation”. Instead, the Task Force recommends a Community Safety Oversight Board where the community would have “a role in the police oversight system”. The board would be comprised of members from an array of interest groups including “community leaders”. The people’s voice is reduced to a whisper in the remote wilderness of yet more public hearings. But you won’t be heard.
Alderwoman Hairston has also grabbed for the leadership cape and presented her own police placebo, an “Independent” Citizen Police Monitor. In this proposal the Inspector General would “select” representatives from “civil rights groups, immigrant rights groups, and people representing gay rights activists, and the faith community”. Presumably the NGOs with the better budgets would get the nod.
Beyond their disdain for democracy, the Oversight Board, Police Monitor, and the CRS’s Auditor also share another characteristic. They have no power to enforce change. They all remain advisory in nature, with the mayor’s office continuing to wield considerable power over all police matters. All of these proposals contain suggestions for very necessary changes in CPD’s practices, but they contain no changes in the power dynamics that continue to keep Chicago communities from deciding how their neighborhoods are policed.
The Chicago police will remain unaccountable if we continue to follow these leaders in their renaming of IPRA contest. Emperor Rahm will choose the new name from the field of contestants, and it will be back to business as usual, as Pierre Loury’s blood dries at the foot of the fence that entangled him.