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Chicago: Police accountability, not arbitration!

By Gabriel Miller

Chicago press conference demands City Council vote down an FOP-aligned arbitrator's decision.

Chicago, IL – In Chicago, the movement to stop police crimes is demanding city hall act to block the most recent attempt by the Fraternal Order of Police to undermine police accountability. Chicago organizers, district councilors and alderpersons spoke in a press conference Thursday September 14, to demand the Chicago City Council vote down an FOP-aligned arbitrator's decision to give officers accused of serious misconduct the choice of behind-closed-doors arbitration instead of going before the Chicago Police Board.

The arbitrator's decision in June comes on the heels of historic democratic gains won by the people of Chicago when they voted in February to elect three district councilors in every police district. The Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance created the 66 directly-elected district-level positions designed to hold the police accountable on a local level, as well as the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), tasked with drafting policy and hiring the heads of Chicago Police Department and Police Board, among other powers.

The police board was previously the designated decision-making body for any case of alleged police misconduct that was severe enough to warrant firing or suspension of a year or more. It's no accident the FOP is trying to get around the board now that it falls under the purview of the CCPSA, according to Frank Chapman, field organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

“The FOP is invoking arbitration at this particular juncture to undermine the inalienable democratic right of our people to say who polices our communities and how our communities are policed,” Chapman said.

3rd District Councilor Anthony David Bryant agreed with Chapman and emphasized the importance of transparency and community oversight.

The CCPSA and Chicago District Councils are “not led by the mayor’s office, not led by wanna-be politicians. This body is community-driven and community-led,” Bryant said. “The role of transparency is crucial to ensure the system of police accountability is fully functional to address the harm and brutality caused by CPD onto our neighbors.”

20th Ward Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor spoke on the need for real police accountability in light of huge payouts for police crime settlements. “Every city council meeting, we're spending millions and millions of dollars on police misconduct,” Taylor said. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the Chicago city council has approved $220 million to settle police misconduct lawsuits since 2021.

Edwin Benn, the arbitrator responsible for the June decision, has worked with the FOP since 1978 and has often ruled to promote officers accused of misconduct instead of holding them accountable.

The movement to stop police crimes and its allies have shown their ability to beat the FOP time and again. The movement won at the ballot box in the district council elections, securing 35 district council seats to the FOP's six, and again in the mayoral runoff election, when voters from the South and West Sides showed out in force to defeat the FOP-backed candidate, Paul Vallas.