Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), a former police officer, is planning to hit the ground running now that he’s been appointed chairman of the Chicago City Council Committee on Public Safety.

During the July 24 meeting of the full City Council, which will be held at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., Taliaferro plans to introduce resolutions calling for public hearings on the city’s rate of unsolved murders and widespread inaccuracies in the Chicago Gang Database. He also plans to hold public hearings to consider two ordinances that could strength civilian oversight over the Chicago Police Department. 

One ordinance is supported by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (the so-called “GAPA Ordinance”) and the other is supported by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression (also called the “CPAC ordinance”). After each wound up in limbo and didn’t pass during previous legislative sessions, they were reintroduced on June 12 and May 29, respectively. 

Taliaferro originally scheduled to roll out his ambitions plans as public safety committee chairman during a committee meeting on July 31, but that meeting was cancelled. 

According to a report released by Inspector General Joe Ferguson in April, the city’s Ganga Database contained numerous problems. For instance, out of 134,000 people identified as gang members, 15,000 weren’t listed as part of any specific gang and 15,648 “never had a reason listed for their gang designations.” 

The report also found multiple instances of people listed as being born “prior to 1901,” which would make them at least 118 years old, and 80 people whose age was listed as zero. It also raised alarm over the fact that CPD doesn’t check the entries for accuracy or whether the individuals in questions are still gang members, and that there is no way to remove people from the list even if proof is presented. 

Because CPD shares information in the gang database, people who aren’t actually gang members can face “potential consequences in the areas of law enforcement, criminal justice, immigration, and employment.” Given that Black and Latino men make up 91 percent of the database, these groups are more likely to suffer the consequences of being mislabeled. 

In a press release, Taliaferro stated that he was concerned that the gang database lacks “procedural fairness protections” and “sufficient controls for generating, maintaining and sharing gang-related data.” He’s also concerned about the large number minority men in the database. 

During her campaign, Lightfoot said that she would push to either dismantle or significantly retool the database. 

Taliaferro’s other hearing would address why the number of murders that the police solves has been declining for the past 10 years. As his statement noted, one of CPD’s strategies for improving the officers’ effectiveness was adding more sergeants. Taliaferro wants to see whether that has had any impact on the rate of fatal violence in the city. 

“Alderman Taliaferro would like Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Chief of Detectives Bureau Melissa A. Staples to explain what is being done or what is needed to correct this problem,” the statement indicated.


West Side alderman elevated

According to the law, the City Council is responsible for choosing committee chairs and mayors can only make recommendations, but in practice, aldermen tend to confirm whoever the mayor appoints. 

After Mayor Lightfoot was sworn in, she recommended keeping Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) as chairs of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection and Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, respectively. She replaced Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) with Taliaferro as chair of the Committee on Public Safety. She appointed Ald. Michael Scott (24th) to the vacant Committee on Education chairmanship. 

As ProPublica reported, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and some other long-time aldermen tried to muster opposition, but the council ultimately approved Lightfoot’s appointments by a voice vote during the May 29 meeting, with Burke and South Side aldermen Anthony Beale (9th) and Ray Lopez (15th) voting “no.” 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...

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