Community members gathered to discuss Police Reform
As part of the fight for justice in our communities, Action Now recently held two town-hall meetings on police accountability. With the recent passage of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ordinance in the city council, and the upcoming police contract bargaining sessions, we felt it was important to hear from community stakeholders on what reform should look like.
In November we held our first meeting with residents on the South Side, together with our partner organizations Workers Center for Racial Justice and S.O.U.L. in the BlackRoots Alliance. The focus of the meeting was not only to hear testimony from members who have experienced police misconduct, but to get input on what changes can be implemented from both the City of Chicago and the community to fix the problems that exist. It was important for us to bring together people from across the South Side, and we found that a majority of people shared negative interactions with police officers. People expressed having no trust in the police or the system under which they serve, as well as an overwhelming anger about the failures of leadership to discipline cops when they abuse power. Members stressed the need for real reform, not just more of the same ‘smoke & mirrors’ that has been the status quo for decades in Chicago.
We held another meeting in early December, this time on the West Side. The experiences of the West Side residents mirrored what we heard from folks on the other side of the city. It was clear the people felt that the time for talking without action was over. They are fed-up, tired of seeing their brothers and sisters profiled, harassed and gunned down in the streets without repercussions for the cops that continue to treat them like their lives don’t matter.
At each meeting there were break-out sessions, which allowed participants to come together in smaller groups to answer the question, “If you had oversight of the Chicago Police Department, what changes would you like to see?" There were many suggestions made through rigorous back-and-forth debate, but among the many suggestions that people at both meetings agreed upon were the following:
An FOP (police union) contract with the city that removes previous barriers for police accountability.
A mechanism that allows for community members to participate in the contract bargaining process.
A process for dealing with police misconduct that includes community oversight both in the investigation of and in the discipline/removal process of bad officers in the department, as the recently passed COPA ordinance does not provide this necessity.
An emphasis on restructuring the recruitment and training of new officers that provides for things such as cultural sensitivity training, PED testing and mandatory community service in the communities they will work in.
We will continue to engage in this conversation with our neighbors and our elected officials. The path to a better community policing model has to include all of our voices in the process and implementation, and we are confident that this is the beginning of the reform that has been so desperately needed.