Rahm Emanuel Looks to Replace Agency That Reviews Police Conduct

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to get rid of the organization that is assigned to investigate claims of misconduct by Chicago police officers but has been widely criticized as slow, ineffective and rarely willing to demand serious disciplinary action.

In an essay posted on the website of The Chicago Sun-Times late Friday afternoon, Mr. Emanuel said he intended to replace the organization,the Independent Police Review Authority, with a new civilian investigative agency. The mayor also said he wanted to create an inspector general to oversee public safety operations, and an oversight board made up of Chicago residents.

Mr. Emanuel’s announcements matched recommendations made last month by a task force he appointed, which issued a blistering report on the failings of the city’s police force on race, transparency and accountability.

The mayor’s plans come as the federal Justice Department conducts an investigation into department practices, and six months after public outrage followed the release of a dashboard camera video showing a white police officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, 16 times. They also come at a time of low approval ratings for Mr. Emanuel, who is in his second term: 62 percent of Chicagoans said they disapproved of his job performance in a recent poll. 

Mr. Emanuel wrote that “it is clear that a totally new agency is required to rebuild trust in investigations of officer-involved shootings and the most serious allegations of police misconduct.”

Created in 2007, the Independent Police Review Authority was billed as a tough, independent agency that would reform a police department that had seldom seemed to punish its own. But discipline remained rare, and the agency found claims of wrongdoing valid in only a few of more than 400 police shootings. In addition, while the authority issues recommendations for discipline, a police board and the police superintendent have the final word in the most serious cases. “The public has lost faith in the oversight system,” the task force appointed by Mr. Emanuel wrote in its report last month.

Mr. Emanuel provided few details about how he intended to replace the authority, but said that in late June he intended to present the City Council with a comprehensive plan to “fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability.” He said the plan would be based on his task force’s recommendations.

The task force chairwoman, Lori E. Lightfoot, said she found Mr. Emanuel’s announcement “very encouraging,” but what mattered would be the specifics.

“It will be important for the members of the public, particularly those most impacted by policing in Chicago, to have an opportunity to review the intended ordinance and make comments before any City Council vote,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “Perhaps the City Council might even hold public hearings to affirmatively solicit comments from members of the public and subject-matter experts in advance of any such vote.”

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