Politics

Rahm Emanuel’s Police Overhaul Stacks Authority In His Own Office

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Dan Chaison Reporter
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Rahm Emanuel plans to reform the troubled Chicago Police Department, replacing its internal oversight committee with a civilian committee staffed by him personally.

The move will dissolve the Independent Police Review Authority (IRPA) and put a new agency called the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in charge of investigating law enforcement misconduct.

Emanuel also said that COPA goes beyond IPRA’s focus on police use of force in that it will handle constitutional issues such as Fourth Amendment violations and there will also be an inspector general assigned.

Manning the new agency will be left largely at the discretion of the mayor’s office, according to the Chicago Tribune:

  • COPA’s inspector general will be chosen by the city inspector general, who was appointed by Emanuel.
  • A new director will be selected by Emanuel to head the IPRA until it shuts down, at which point they’ll take charge of COPA.
  • Emanuel aides say a civilian board will choose future agency directors, but neither they nor the plan distinguish who will appoint board members—possibly Emanuel.
  • The proposal doesn’t specify how much funding COPA will be granted, therefore leaving the door open to the agency being crippled by Emanuel’s budgeting.
  • As the plan stands, there is no way for COPA to bring its own lawyers on board outside of those in the city Law Department—which is controlled by Emanuel.

The pressure on Emanuel to turn the Chicago Police Department around heightened after the Justice Department opened an investigation into the fatal 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, an African-American shot 16 times by officers. Increasing trustworthiness from the public has been an ongoing challenge for City Hall and the Chicago police.

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