Chicago City Council approves civilian police oversight ordinance

Without one vote to spare, the City Council on Wednesday approved creation of a new Chicago police oversight commission that will eventually include 66 newly-elected members.

The vote was 36 to 13. A relieved round of applause followed.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot hailed the measure as historic.

"The responsibilities given to this commission will provide our residents with an important opportunity to hold our police department accountable," she said.

Opponents also invoked accountability, noting the enormous increase this year in shootings and killings.

"Where we don't put accountability is on our communities, all our communities – 6,700 people shot in the last 18 months!" said 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano.

Napolitano is a former Chicago police officer, and so is West Side 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro, who was a chief architect of Wednesday’s changes. He foresees more to come.

"The end process must be a better city of Chicago," Taliaferro said. "The end process must be a better Chicago Police Department."


The Wednesday vote calls for election of three commission members from each of Chicago’s 22 police districts. They will each be paid $6,000 a year. Those elected members will then work with the mayor to choose a seven-member oversight panel. That panel will then work with the mayor and City Council in selecting any new police superintendent.

While they can also recommend the firing of a superintendent, that decision is ultimately left to the mayor.

Lightfoot claimed the measure makes Chicago a national leader in police reform.

"You're gonna have folks in the community that will be engaged with their neighbors, but also with the police to be able to problem solve, but also throw a flag if there's something that's going wrong in a district or neighborhood," Lightfoot said.

Critics, including the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said there are already a dozen different agencies overseeing Chicago officers. They pointed to local, state and federal agencies.

Up next, the City Council will submit 14 names to the mayor who will appoint seven to an initial oversight commission, who will then serve until members are elected in the 2023 citywide election.