During a May 10 community meeting at the Garfield Park Fieldhouse. 100 N. Central Park, West Side residents like Vanessa Williams vented their frustration with the city’s Independent Police Review Authority to Sharon Fairley, the controversial entity’s head.
“What I find weird is that those people [on IPRA] aren’t police, but they vote in favor of the police,” Williams said.
Theron Hawk, a community organizer with the Garfield Park Community Council was more direct in his criticism, claiming that “this whole city is corrupt.”
The public’s overwhelming dissatisfaction with IPRA may have finally sunk in with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On May 13, Emanuel announced that IPRA will be replaced with a “new civilian investigative agency that has more independence and more resources to do its work.”
The move comes a month after Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force released a report that included a recommendation calling for IPRA to be replaced with the “a new and fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency.”
Community leaders and elected officials across the city have been calling for IPRA’s dissolution at least since the release of the Laquan McDonald dashcam video last November.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who organized the May 10 meeting, discussed with attendees a series of ordinances he supported — one of which included replacing IPRA.
The Fair Cops Ordinance, which Ervin sponsored, “would install an independent police auditor and a Deputy Inspector General of Police Oversight within the city’s Inspector General’s office,” according to an April 27 report by Austin Weekly News. The ordinance was drafted two years ago by the Community Renewal Society.
Ervin, along with West Side Aldermen Michael Scott, Jr. (24th), Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th), also signed onto Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) ordinance that would replace IPRA with an Independent Citizen Police Monitor.
“Hairston has one ordinance and we’re trying to figure out how to merge them together,” Ervin told residents. “We’re trying to figure out what’s the best case. We got to figure out something, because we can’t just throw millions of dollars away dealing with police misconduct.”
At the May 10 meeting in West Garfield Park, Fairley conceded that IPRA “was in a lot of trouble” and admitted that “there were concerns about whether the investigations were conducted in an independent manner.”
She said that she didn’t mind some of the changes to IPRA proposed by the Task Force report and by aldermen, noting that she’d even be fine if the mayor decided to replace the 9-year-old agency.
But Fairley also touted what she said were some improvements to IPRA since her appointment as the agency’s head in December. They included hiring more attorneys to provide legal oversight and to speed up investigations, and introducing a new performance evaluation system that she said would make investigators more accountable.
In a May 14 Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece announcing the changes, Emanuel laid out his plan to replace IPRA with a “new civilian investigative agency,” the creation of a new Public Safety Inspector General “to audit and monitor policing in Chicago” and the creation of a new Community Safety Oversight Board,” that would include city residents, “to oversee the city’s entire policy accountability system.”
Emanuel said the final details of the “comprehensive plan to fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability” will be hammered out in the coming weeks. He noted that, during the transition, the board will continue to hear allegations of police misconduct.
Task Force chairwoman Lori Lightfoot told Sun-Times reporters that she thought the “mayor’s statements were an important step,” but wanted to know the details before changes are abruptly put in place.
“This is a process that has to move thoughtfully and carefully rather than just quickly,” she said. “Quickly is what got us to where we are now.”
IPRA was created in 2007 by then Mayor Richard M. Daley following the controversy surrounding revelations of torture by detectives working under Cmdr. John Burge and other acts of police misconduct. Before that point, the Office of Professional Standards, which was part of CPD, was tasked with looking into allegations of police misconduct.