For decades, Black and Brown communities have experienced the worst effects of unchecked police brutality. In our own city, there are countless recent and blatant examples of excessive force by the police. In September of 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office proposed a new Chicago police oversight ordinance: the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). But with no specific plan for civilian oversight, little plan for funding, and no independent prosecutor, COPA was just more business as usual for City Hall.
When the ordinance was passed in early October, it did include many components it was originally lacking. largely due to grassroots community pressure. But COPA is still missing the most critical points for true accountability. JCUA supports the efforts of community-based organizations organizing for new levels of public oversight and accountability for the Chicago Police Department.
GRASSROOTS ALLIANCE FOR POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY (GAPA)
In the summer of 2016, a coalition of community organizations formed the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA). GAPA came together in direct response to the Police Accountability Task Force’s recommendation to develop a Community Oversight Board, allowing the community to have a powerful platform and role in the police oversight system. In November and December of 2016, JCUA joined GAPA organizations as they brought together 1,700 Chicagoans across 30 wards for police accountability community conversations.
Born from these conversations, the GAPA ordinance was introduced to City Council in March of 2018. The GAPA ordinance does the following:
- Creates democratically-elected district councils for each police district. 3 members from each district will work to engage the community and police and have a voice in determining community policing strategies on a district-level.
- Creates the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. This commission has the power to help select and remove key leadership positions as well as to develop and approve Police Department policy, including policies related to use of force and de-escalation.
As of September 2018, 22 aldermen have committed to supporting the GAPA ordinance. Read more here.
COALITION FOR POLICE CONTRACTS ACCOUNTABILITY (CPCA)
For decades, the Chicago Police Department has had a “code of silence” that allows officers to hide misconduct. Our city’s police union contracts effectively make this “code of silence” official policy. The Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability (CPCA) has identified several contract provisions that discourage people from filing complaints, make it easy for officers to conceal the truth, and that obstruct investigations into claims of misconduct. JCUA is a full member of CPCA and endorses their 14 recommendations for a new police union contract. Read the recommendations.
WHY IS JCUA INVOLVED
JCUA recognizes that many members of the police force put their lives on the line and carry out their duties with integrity. However, some police officers miscarry their duties and moral obligations with impunity. Chicago’s accountability systems have failed, and we see and feel the consequences of this injustice in many different ways.
Our Jewish community is diverse, and some of us have stake in this issue because the color of our skin or where we live means we are more likely to face police misconduct. Some of us are compelled by this issue because of our history. Jews around the world descend from people that experienced state sanctioned violence, including pogroms, inquisitions, and genocide. Some of us feel these consequences as social workers, lawyers, and community organizers with relationships to heavily policed and systemically disinvested communities. As Jews, we feel we must take a stand because our tradition teaches us that all people are created in the image of God. To stay silent in the face of such injustice endangers our own humanity.