• Erin Hegarty
    MAY 28, 2021

    Community Police oversight plans face ‘tight’ vote as showdown nears

    Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) speak during a news conference Thursday.

    One day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot formally introduced her long-awaited proposal for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department (O2021-2143), proponents of a competing community proposal think they still have enough votes to get their ordinance approved.

    The coalition behind the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, which is expected to be filed as a substitute to the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability ordinance (SO2019-4132), including aldermen and labor leaders, criticized Lightfoot’s proposal during a news conference Thursday and said they expect a vote on police oversight in June. Lightfoot’s proposal gives her the final say on police policy decisions and hiring for positions including the police superintendent and police board members.

    Related: Critics dismiss Lightfoot’s police oversight proposal as ‘window dressing’

    Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), a sponsor of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, couldn’t give “the exact count right now” on the number of aldermen who support the ordinance, but said “we are constantly working on numbers.”

    “We believe we have enough votes to get it both out of committee, and enough votes to get it passed, but we have to revisit a lot of people now that the mayor has put out what she's put out,” Sawyer said, adding that he cannot “even call it a proposed ordinance, it's kind of the redacted version of our ECPS ordinance.”

    After months of delays as aldermen waited for Lightfoot to file her own proposal for police oversight, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29), who chairs the City Council Committee on Public Safety, said multiple times last week that he will call the issue for a vote during the June 18 public safety committee meeting. Under that timeline, an oversight ordinance would go for a vote before the full City Council during its June 23 meeting.

    Related: Lightfoot 'moving on' from GAPA police oversight proposal, pledges to introduce 'alternative' plan

    “When June comes up, we expect to be heard, and we expect an up or down vote,” Sawyer said on Thursday.

    Taliaferro told The Daily Line on Thursday his commitment still holds up. “We will take a vote in June prior to the June City Council meeting,” he said. 

    The public safety committee chair said he has already asked his staff to set up briefings for aldermen on each of the ordinances and is considering holding a subject matter hearing on the proposals before the June 18 committee meeting. 

    The June 18 agenda is expected to include both police oversight ordinances, and Taliaferro said if the first one called passes out of committee, there will be no need to vote on the second proposal. 

    “If I do call one and that vote fails, I will immediately call the other,” Taliaferro said, adding that if both fail, they will get “sent back to the table for some revisions.”

    A proposal would need a simple majority of the public safety committee’s 19 members to pass to the full City Council. Still, Taliaferro thinks it will be a close vote. “The numbers in my committee are very, very tight,” he said.

    A previous proposal from the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability had “very strong support in committee,” Taliaferro said, but he thinks the addition of a referendum question to the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance will hinder that support. 

    Additionally, Taliaferro noted Lightfoot’s ordinance would need only a simple majority to pass City Council while the Empowering Communities for Public Safety measure would require a supermajority due to the referendum component.

    While Taliaferro was quoted in a news release from Lightfoot lauding her proposal, he declined to say which ordinance he’ll support. “I’m going to vote for one of them,” he said Thursday.

    Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), a sponsor behind the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, said during Thursday’s news conference that the mayor’s proposed ordinance represents a “disturbing pattern and practice” from Lightfoot’s administration.

    “They say they want to talk to people” and invite people to the table "and then they do nothing and say ‘we’re just checking a box.’” Hairston said the process is a "slap in the face" to people who engage with Lightfoot’s administration.

    Ald. Sophia King (4), chair of the City Council Progressive Caucus, said the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance adds "checks and balances that a city rife with racism" in the police department needs, "and we need it now."

    King said it is time for Lightfoot to "come to the table with us and lead."

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