It’s appropriate that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has unveiled her plan to increase civilian oversight of the Chicago police in the same week that our nation marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd.
The outrage that followed Floyd’s death, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, has spurred police reform efforts across the country, including Lightfoot’s police oversight plan. Her long-awaited proposal includes many of the changes demanded by police reform advocates.
Much of the public discussion about the mayor’s plan, released on Monday, is sure to focus on where the mayor and reform activists fundamentally disagree. The mayor insists that she and future mayors must retain their authority to hire and fire the police superintendent and make major policy decisions. But two local police reform groups, who have joined together to support an alternative plan now pending in the City Council, say an elected board of civilians, not the mayor, should make those calls.
We stand firmly with the mayor on this. The people of Chicago will always demand action from the mayor, not some semi-anonymous elected board, when crime rates soar or the police screw up. Strip any mayor of that most basic power — the authority to hire and fire the superintendent — and watch accountability fly out the window.
But what’s more significant, to our thinking, is the degree to which the mayor’s plan incorporates other elements of proposals by reform advocates. The police department still would be placed under stronger, though not ultimate, civilian oversight.