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.
Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS)
In February 2021, after continuous canceled votes in the Public Safety Committee and broken promises from Mayor Lightfoot, GAPA and CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council) came together to propose a unity ordinance: Empowering Communities for Public Safety. These two coalitions represent hundreds of organizations and ten of thousands of people across Chicago– many of whom have been directly impacted by police violence– who believe in the people’s right to have a voice in police oversight. ECPS gives communities a meaningful voice in determining what policing, policy, and reform looks like by:
- Creating a Community Commission on Public Safety: The Community Commission will be a seven-member body, nominated by elected community members, selected by the Mayor, and confirmed by the City Council. The Commission will have the power to play a central role in selecting and removing important police figures, setting police department policy, and promoting engagement and transparency.
- Creating District Councils: District Councils will be created in each of the City’s 22 police districts, and will be made of up three people elected in regular municipal elections. District Councils will work with the community to get input on police department policies and practices, hold monthly meetings to hear the concerns of their constituents, and play a role in nominating members of the Community Commission.
- Creating an opportunity for additional democratic reform: The 2022 primary ballot will include a binding referendum that asks Chicago voters if they want to directly elect the members of the Commission and expand its powers to hire and fire important figures like the Superintendent and COPA Chief. Learn more about the ordinance’s structure before and after the referendum 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
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 divested 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.