Police review needs more transparency

There is a crisis in confidence in the Chicago Police Department. It’s acknowledged in every community, by editorial boards, and jury awards of millions of dollars to victims of police abuse. Indeed, all citizens suffer and pay the cost when we can no longer trust the integrity of police. Like Chicagoans in every community, we would welcome change that would help restore citizen confidence. We welcomed Ms. Illana Rosenzweig, an outsider, as new the chief of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). With her hiring, we looked for indications that the restructuring of the office would help restore confidence in impartial investigations into allegations of police misconduct. The recent move by the mayor and Ms. Rosenzweig leaves thoughtful citizens with important concerns.

One, we are still waiting for transparency and clearly defined processes of review into allegations against police officers. At the outset, the review process had an approximate 6-month timeline, with reporting and public access all along the way. As we write this, the process is hardly transparent and not even posted on the OPS website. Posting and adherence would allow the media and citizens to monitor investigations and help restore confidence in the integrity of the process.

Two, the reports we’re hearing that OPS operatives will now serve as “one-service spokespersons” for the Chicago Police Department presents an inherent contradiction against the mission of independent review. The OPS office is now outside of police headquarters (albeit one block away), representing independence from police brass. OPS can not speak for a police department it has no supervisory responsibility for. We would still need to hear from supervisors in many cases, if not all. OPS investigations must do their work onsite. Spokespersons, on the other hand, should operate similarly as officials with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office: reporting away from the scene with undisputed facts.

Three, the new name for OPS reportedly will be the Independent Police Review Authority. This, however, reveals a glaring omission. Those who have labored in the vineyards seeking to protect the interest of ordinary, innocent citizens have always insisted upon having an “Independent Civilian Review” of police misconduct allegations. Renaming OPS without an explicit civilian review mission means we retain much uneasiness about the true intent of the restructuring. We can settle for no less than transparency, and an unrestricted search for truth and justice.

The mayor could begin to restore confidence by releasing the names of officers with the most misconduct complaints against them to the City Council. Our network will closely monitor the investigation of the 82-year-old woman tasered in her home in Lawndale.

Restoring honor to the majority of the hard-working and honest of “Chicago’s Finest” will require vigilance of citizens of good will, both within the police department and in the community.

Rev. Dr. Marshall Hatch, Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Cy Fields
The Leaders Network

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Maceo Leon Thomas