Chicago Police Unions Set To Clash With New Watchdog Agency

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

A new watchdog agency will be charged with ramping up discipline against Chicago police Friday, a prospect that has the city’s police unions bolstering their legal defenses.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Chicago’s premier police union, has criticized the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) agency. COPA will open with 126 employees, with plans to add roughly 15 more in the near future, according to the Chicago Tribune. Lawmakers across Illinois have called for further oversight of the Chicago Police Department, with the state’s attorney general filing a lawsuit against the city last month to appoint court oversight of police reforms. Chicago scrapped the previous oversight agency, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), following questionable investigations and a tendency to exonerate cops.

“Based on our early observations, the FOP does not believe our officers will be investigated fairly under COPA, as they have not been under IPRA,” The union told the Tribune. “Our collective bargaining agreement does not recognize the authority of COPA. Nevertheless, we have already taken steps to bolster the legal defense of our members and to go on the offense.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice also criticized the IPRA, claiming its investigations into police were often superficial. In response, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the program’s chief administrator and appointed former prosecutor Sharon Fairley in his place. (RELATED: Chicago Sues Trump’s Justice Department Over Witholding Funds To Sanctuary Cities)

With the fall of IPRA, Fairley has been tapped to head COPA instead. When asked whether she feels police are victimized by watchdogs, Fairley was incredulous.

“Oh, give me a break!” she told the Tribune. “We are at a real crossroads in our city, and they are a member of this community. Just because we’re holding them accountable in a way they haven’t experienced before, they’re squealing. I can’t be sorry for that.”

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