Mayor Lori Lightfoot Prepares to Capitulate to Chicago’s Anti-Police Posse

June 20, 2019
Florian Sohnke

GAPA proposal would force city to surrender control of police to an angry mob.

Anti-police demonstrators confront Chicago police in November 2015
Anti-police demonstrators confront Chicago police in November 2015

For Chicago residents lulled into believing the May 20 coronation of Lori Lightfoot as mayor is a harbinger of sweeping change, dramatic reform, an end to bureaucratic corruption, and a decline in violent crime, think differently. Although Ms. Lightfoot avoided overburdening her inaugural address with pompous language, her fifteen-minute speech evoked memories of the former mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who, while manipulating facile rhetoric and serving up hollow promises in two swearing-in ceremonies in 2011 and 2015, droned on endlessly about a better Chicago, inclusiveness, equality, opportunity, education, and reducing crime. Well, welcome to 2019, where little has changed.

While there was nothing original, creative, or interesting in Mayor Lightfoot’s vision for the Windy City, when the former Police Board president addressed the scourge of crime and violence, she spoke of bridging the divide between Chicago police and residents. Boilerplate rhetoric to which she appealed throughout the campaign, Lightfoot was coy in her oration, but did mention her administration’s aim to offer further training and wellness support for police officers. When confronting the ongoing debate over policing, Lightfoot opaquely referred to her intent to lend support for a proposed police oversight panel as providing the “best-quality supervision available.” A colloquialism for turning the screws on Chicago police, Ms. Lightfoot’s alluding to “supervision” over police is a potent signal she intends to sanction the creation of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability.

GAPA’s blueprint for a “way out of trouble” is nothing more than a blunt political instrument.

A scheme crafted by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), the plan tendered to re-structure administration of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) does not seek reform or change, but aspires for power and control. Under GAPA’s proposal, a seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability would be flush with the power to select and dismiss the police superintendent, the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the president of the Police Board. Similarly, under the plan the new commission would be authorized to approve candidates nominated for a seat on the Police Board, formulate CPD and COPA policy, and create citizen-led panels to preside over each of Chicago’s 22 police districts. Worse, and the diamond bit in GAPA’s far-reaching manifesto, is the power to issue subpoenas to indulge its principle aim for “information gathering and sharing.”

Although GAPA loudly trumpets its proposal to establish an additional police oversight body shepherded wholly by civilians as a path forward to a safer Chicago, the umbrella organization’s wisdom is deeply flawed on several fronts. First: GAPA has promulgated the creation of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability on the misleading tenet its popularly-elected representatives are uniquely fused to residents in poverty-stricken, high-crime neighborhoods. This nexus with residents, GAPA asserts with maximum petulance, would yield unparalleled insights relevant to residents’ experiences with police enforcing the law which separate reform drafts, elected members of the Chicago City Council, or existing police oversight panels manned by political appointees are unable to furnish. A falsehood, GAPA’s faulty logic fails to acknowledge the city has been remarkably conscientious in its drive to attract residents to join CPD or city officials in formal meetings arranged for the specific intent of being attentive to citizens’ concerns and to clarify police practices. Although GAPA takes none of this into consideration, under current city policy, COPA maintains a permanent standing panel, the Community Advisory Council (CAC), for the expressed purpose of community outreach. Apart from this permanent body, COPA manipulates a robust social media presence and a blog on its homepage, and the watchdog routinely calls together public meetings to engage Chicago residents. Similarly, the Police Board also hosts monthly public forums with the sole aim of informing citizens of Chicago over its goals and publishes meeting minutes on its website. Moreover, the CPD holds regularly scheduled community “beat” meetings in each beat, 267 in all, across all 22 police districts and uses social media platforms to strengthen ties with residents, and apprise the public over police objectives.

Second: GAPA contends its raison d’être is to “establish an accountability system that operates independently and without bias.” The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, GAPA insists, is an appropriate solution in view of the fact safeguards are crucial to ensure police discretionary powers are utilized to strengthen law and order rather than for its debasement during the course of police fulfilling their duties. A policy goal GAPA writes as if police are a secretive, self-sufficient, and self-regulating agency and therefore in drastic need of an independent, specialized panel composed of citizens to review police behavior, GAPA is either utterly oblivious to or entirely ignores the inordinate layers of checks weathered by the CPD. The police, of course, are not an autonomous, self-governing agency. The CPD is led by a police superintendent who is appointed and dismissed by the mayor, who is elected by Chicago residents. Police behavior is the subject of intense review in the popularly-elected Chicago City Council, namely in the Committee on Public Safety, which debates and approves the annual police budget. Furthermore, the police are liable to the jurisdiction of the same courts and laws as are Chicago residents.

While some Chicago residents may be swayed by rosy first impressions, paramount among the reasoning GAPA’s warped proposition is uncalled for is the Chicago Police Department currently functions under a ridiculous volume of superfluous oversight. The result of an exorbitant and unfounded amount of anti-police delirium, over the last several years alone, the CPD has performed its obligations under the weight of a 2015 agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in which the department was coerced into adopting Investigatory Stop Reports (ISRs) for review by the liberties group. A landmark accord with Chicago, a central proviso in the compact with the ACLU has designated the appointment of a retired U.S. magistrate judge to monitor compliance with the advocacy organization. In addition to the marauding arms of the ACLU, the CPD is compulsively watched by COPA, which probes complaints leveled against police officers, handles allegations of police misconduct, and explores officer-involved shootings. Alongside COPA and the ACLU, the CPD is also under the constant gaze of the Police Board, a nine-member civilian board charged with weighing the fate of a police officer following an official disciplinary inquiry. Over and above the ACLU, COPA, and the Police Board, Chicago police officers are also subject to potential scrutiny following a fatal, officer-involved shooting by the Office of the State Appellate Prosecutor. Not to be forgotten, the CPD recently has fallen under the microscope of the federal government with the appointments of former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey and retired U.S. District Judge David Coar to enforce the consent decree foisted upon the CPD on March 1. This steep strata of review occurs alongside the police department’s own Internal Affairs Division (IAD), which carefully examines public grievances, accusations of malfeasance, and scrupulously analyzes officer-involved shootings.

But because Chicago has been bamboozled into accepting an “all-inclusive” political ethos, GAPA advances the creation of this commission and its 22 surrogate panels to oversee police as an example of exceptional progress in popular democracy owing to the fact it will be, at long last, an authentic representation of all of the various minority or ethnic groups across the city. Another deeply problematic assumption, GAPA’s proposal is an implicit admission it does not regard elected lawmakers in the City Council or appointed civilians seated on existing police oversight boards to be faithful representatives of residents and suitably competent to carry out supervision of police. Furthermore, and equally lamentable, GAPA submits a plan which fails entirely to take into account the fact there are manifold issues intrinsic to policing which GAPA’s proposed elected panel or its proxies in police districts would find either far too complex to understand or are outright incapable of solving. Additionally, GAPA’s plan also neglects to accept the CPD is a far more enlightened law-enforcement agency in 2019 than in any other period in its history. At no time in the CPD’s existence has Chicago fielded a more-professional group of peace officers. In contrast to the days in which police ranks were filled with former military personnel or members whose education level rarely exceeded a high school degree, today’s CPD requires a bachelor’s degree or practical field experience to qualify for a career serving the city. Beyond lower-level officers, it is fairly common for ranking officers or personnel within the CPD leadership structure to hold advanced degrees or to be licensed attorneys. A well-educated and cultivated group, the mere fact applicants considered for employment with the CPD are held to lofty education standards is an enduring testament to a visionary departmental leadership, prudent in the endeavor to raise eligibility benchmarks for members and committed to amending training, modifying policy and procedure or enacting reform when and where it is necessary. Unsurprisingly, GAPA recognizes none of this.

Third: GAPA itself. Although GAPA poses itself as an enterprise of unique genius, it is, at its very core, a derelict cluster of community organizers and so-called civic activists. Despite reveling in what they consider the purity of their intentions, GAPA has gone to extraordinary lengths to disguise its extremism from unsuspecting residents. While GAPA argues it dares to speak on behalf of forgotten voices who know hardship, one irrefutable truth about the group endures: GAPA is closely intertwined logistically, operationally, and strategically with members of Chicago’s anti-police posse and its campaign of guerrilla warfare against Chicago police officers. Beneath the parasol under which GAPA operates lay a fly strip of fringe factions and unruly figures infamous for hurling acid-tipped anti-police invective, stoking anti-police fear, leveling accusations devoid of fact, and demonstrating a complete disregard for police authority. In their public nervous breakdowns, figures associated with GAPA openly evangelize against police by obsessing over the rare instance of police misbehavior, insist police officers are singularly responsible for the bloodshed and woes on Chicago’s streets, and occasionally resort to violence. In private, these same energetic anti-law-and-order agitators routinely contrive methods to incapacitate police, primarily by gaslighting residents into believing Chicago police are a symbol of barbarity over safety, security, and order.

GAPA’s only interests are vengeance and obtaining political power.

Viewed objectively, GAPA’s Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability with faculties as profound and extended as rendered in this motion is an idiotic if not outright dangerous idea. While oversight is crucial to prevent malpractice among police officers, the CPD is currently confronted with a suffocating mass of oversight which is crippling police effectiveness on the streets and dissuading officers from discharging their duties. Instead of urging residents to become an asset to police by cooperating with CPD investigations, or urging citizens to appear at any of the countless outreach assemblies convened by the CPD or the city, GAPA has concocted a formula to overthrow police. A proposal simmering with resentment and inspired by a desire to pursue vendettas against police, GAPA’s entire thrust is to radicalize the political atmosphere with intentionally misleading anti-police propaganda, gain pity from residents and lawmakers, and subjugate police. Once GAPA wrests control from the CPD and prevails over police with its embodiment of arbitrary power, GAPA will abuse its role for the purposes of empaneling a committee favorable to its contorted demands and meting out pitiless and random punishment against officers until the force is cowed into a morally disarmed, demoralized, and impotent agency. Doubly outrageous, while GAPA hyperventilates over the urgent need for oversight of the CPD, it declines to place any onus on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans or Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for their role in contributing to the chaos and horror overwhelming Chicago. This, however, is GAPA’s Progressive vision: Radical, unmoored to law and order, and targeting only police with slings and arrows.

The terrible irony here is the endless conversation over extraneous police oversight occurs at the same moment in which Chicago residents bore witness to a Memorial Day weekend in which gun violence claimed seven souls and wounded 43 others. Another grisly toll, in response to the carnage Mayor Lightfoot commented in a chilling Rahm Emanuel-esque manner, saying the holiday weekend shooting spree was “just an unacceptable state of affairs.” According to heyjackass, as of June 20, Chicago has recorded 215 shot and killed, and another 918 wounded by firearm. Further crime statistics kept by the website reveal 1,133 persons have been shot in the city and Chicago has suffered 237 overall homicides.

A proposal as stupid as it is indefensible, GAPA’s plan calling for a civilian-led board to oversee Chicago police should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

[chicagogapa.org] [heyjackass] [chicago.councilmatic.org] [Chicago Tribune] [chicagopolice.org] [ilsaap.org] [chicago.gov] [chicagocopa.org] [aclu-il.org] [Photo courtesy CBS News]

Related Posts

SUBSCRIBE