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For Immediate Release: December 13, 2023
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Chicago Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) Applauds City Council’s Rejection of Arbitrator’s Decision that Would Set Back Oversight of Police Misconduct

Chicago Today, the Chicago City Council justly rejected an effort to turn back the clock by over 60 years on oversight of serious police misconduct disciplinary cases.  The Council voted down an effort to move the proceedings in such cases from a public process decided by the Police Board to a private proceeding employing an unrepresentative group of private arbitrators as decision-makers, with limited judicial oversight.

Our coalition is encouraged by this decision, and CPAT will continue to organize and advocate for initiatives that increase police accountability, and guarantee that public safety is a key commitment from local elected officials in Chicago. In light of this win, a select few CPAT member organizations released the following statements: 

“Today’s decision is a reminder to Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) – your political leverage only gets you so far and Chicagoans will always fight to keep communities safe. The FOP has been a long-standing hindrance to progress, and has continued to safeguard dangerous police officers, while putting Chicagoans in harm’s way. The Council’s vote today tested its commitment to police accountability and transparency – Color Of Change commends the Council for standing on the right side of history. ” stated Michael Collins, Senior Director of State and Local Government Affairs at Color Of Change

“Chicagoans have spent decades fighting for real police reforms, only to risk having that work undone by the stroke of a pen. Fortunately, the City Council understands that our police departments can only build trust and legitimacy through transparency, engagement, and accountability. Common Cause Illinois applauds Chicago’s City Council for their decision today and expresses its gratitude to all of the advocates that work every day to bring an end to the code of silence.” stated Jay Young, Executive Director at Common Cause Illinois.

“This is a defining moment for our City,” said Craig Futterman, the University of Chicago Law Professor who was the first person to call for the public release of the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder of Laquan McDonald.  “We can’t afford to return to the not-so-distant time when a Chicago police officer knew that he could fire 16 shots into the body of a Black teenage boy while he lay on the ground, knowing that nothing would happen to him.”

“The City Council’s rejection of the arbitrator’s decision is important in keeping open a path for us to continue to work to improve the civilian oversight of police in Chicago.” said David Melton, Co-chair of the Civil Liberties Committee at the Chicago Council of Lawyers. 

“As the state’s LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, Equality Illinois thanks the members of the Chicago City Council who demonstrated support for police transparency and accountability by voting to reject the arbitrator’s ruling. Transparency and public accountability in police misconduct cases are important to LGBTQ+ people. Forty-six percent of queer people in Illinois reported a negative interaction with law enforcement. Nationally, LGBQ people are six times more likely to be stopped by police than non-LGBQ people and 56% of trans folks do not reach out to law enforcement when they need assistance. Police officers should be held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.” stated Mike Ziri, The Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois.  

“Today, City Council represented the interests of the people by voting against a provision that would have allowed the most egregious cases of police misconduct to be resolved in private. With this decision alders boldly recognized that building trust is dependent on transparency, union workers with the legal authority to use deadly force should be held to a higher standard, and rolling back accountability would have been a monumental step backward for Chicago.” said Loren Jones of Impact for Equity. 

The Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) is a cohort of over a dozen community-based, civil rights, and justice reform organizations focused on protecting and expanding mechanisms for police accountability and transparency in the city of Chicago.

American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts, Chicago Council of Lawyers, Color Of Change, Chicago Women Take Action, Common Cause Illinois, Impact for Equity, The League of Women Voters of Chicago, NAACP Westside, NCOBRA Chicago Chapter, NCOBRA National Youth Commission, ONE Northside, The Rainbow Push Coalition, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School


Background – This summer, in continuing collective bargaining negotiations between the City of Chicago and the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, an arbitrator ruled that, in serious cases of police conduct police officers could opt to have such cases resolved by private arbitrators in proceedings closed to the public. This decision flies in the face of a prior 60 years of requiring such cases to be determined by the Police Board of Chicago (an appointed government agency) in proceedings open to the public. Relying upon an interpretation of the 1984 Illinois Public Labor Relations Act that had never before been understood to apply to Chicago police misconduct proceedings, the arbitrator ruled that police officers had to be given the option of moving such proceedings to private arbitration. The City believes this decision is erroneous and the Council properly rejected that determination by the arbitrator today by a three-fifths majority. 

In the past few years, some progress has been made in improving the systems for investigating and deciding such cases, though there remain many provisions in the proposed contract that still interfere with the investigation and resolution of disciplinary proceedings in cases of serious police misconduct. The arbitrator’s decision threatens to wipe out that progress and turn the clock back to the time before the Police Board was created. 

The issue will now be returned to the bargaining process. If the FOP and the arbitrator’s position remain unchanged, the matter will come back before the City Council for another vote sometime in the next few months. If it is again rejected, the matter will likely lead to litigation over the issue. In the meantime, the State Legislature may also be asked to clarify the legislation in question to make clear that the arbitrator’s decision is contrary to the intent of the Legislature.

For more information regarding this issue, see the FAQ resource document here.  

For a discussion of the other changes to the collective bargaining agreement that the City’s own Commissions report following the LaQuan McDonald killing recommended see policy papers available here and “Police Arbitration” available here.

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