Liberal activists in Chicago have been pushing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to finally produce some “police reform” initiatives as she promised to do on the campaign trail. The Mayor has been accused of dragging her feet on the subject, though in fairness to her, everyone has been a little busy over the past year with all of the pandemic activity going on. Still, she finally answered the call and rolled out her first new directives on this score. Her supporters should be prepared for disappointment yet again because this announcement only touches on a couple of the items on their agenda, and even then, the changes aren’t even close to what they had been asking for. As we’ll see in a moment, it appears that Mayor Lightfoot has gotten a taste of power and isn’t really inclined to let go of it. (CBS Chicago)
After months of stalling, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced her plan to create a civilian police oversight board, one which would have significantly less authority than a competing proposal championed by a coalition of progressive, Black, and Latino aldermen.
Under her plan, Lightfoot would retain the power to hire and fire the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and members of the Chicago Police Board. She also would also keep final say over the departments’ policies and budgets.
The mayor repeatedly has said, because she “wears the jacket” for crime in Chicago, she’s not willing to essentially hand over control of CPD to a civilian oversight board. She reiterated that stance on Monday.
Some reporters in Chicago had believed that there was a significant raft of changes coming this week. It was expected that Lightfoot would announce new rules limiting the use of various types of physical force that police can employ, such as chokeholds. Activists had also asked that it be made easier to sue police officers and/or get them fired after use of force incidents. None of that was included.
The one item from the liberal agenda that was addressed was the desire for the creation of a civilian oversight board to control police department policies and make hiring and firing decisions. Lightfoot is creating the civilian board, but it’s going to exist strictly in an advisory capacity. They will be able to submit a list of suggested candidates when there is a job opening at the top ranks of the Chicago Police Department, but the final decision will be Mayor Lightfoot’s. Similarly, the board will not be able to simply fire a Police Superintendent every time they don’t care for something that goes on.
Lightfoot is framing this as a situation where she bears the ultimate responsibility for law enforcement in the city. As such, she will make the final decisions and be held accountable for them. But another way to interpret this move might be to suggest that the Mayor has been enjoying all of the unbridled power that comes with being the boss at City Hall and isn’t inclined to give that up.
I have to say that this turned out a lot better (at least so far) than I had previously anticipated. It’s bad enough that we have liberal mayors in large cities hiring police chiefs who seem more interested in emptying the jails and defunding the cops than actually enforcing the law. (See Philadelphia for one prime example.) It would be far worse to turn over nearly full control of police policy to a panel of what will almost undoubtedly wind up being anti-cop activists. We’ll still have to wait and see where Lightfoot comes down on the rest of the demands that activists have been making, such as banning foot chases of suspects by police officers, but she’s made some encouraging comments on those issues as well. Perhaps this won’t turn out to be quite the disaster I’d been anticipating.