ONE Northside Members and Leaders:
In 2016, the Violence Prevention issue team at ONE Northside decided to change its name to the Police Accountability Team and begin work in coalition with allies across Chicago on police accountability. ONE Northside had historically worked on police accountability so this seemed like an obvious progression.
This coalition became the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), and together we spent the next year learning all about the broken systems of policing and police accountability and dreaming about a future where everyone has the power to change those systems. We determined that this change should happen through the Chicago City Council, and sought to create something transformational that could stand up to inevitable lawsuits. Over 2,000 people from throughout
Chicago, most of whom were members of groups most impacted by police violence, participated in these planning sessions where the GAPA proposal was created.
Passage of GAPA will create 66 new elected positions – 3 people elected in each police district to form District Councils. The elected District Councils form a strong base for community engagement, and select the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability (the Commission). The Commission will have more power over the police department than any other community-based body anywhere in the country. The Commission will oversee and intervene in the policies and
practices of the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA, which investigates police misconduct, and the Police Board (which recommends police discipline). No Police Superintendent, COPA Chief or Police Board member will be chosen without first being selected by the Commission. And the Commission can draft policy for the police department and will have the final say on police department policy.
This policymaking power is core to what GAPA is seeking. Right now, the Police Department can make policy without any public input. We have seen the terrible results. With policymaking power, the Commission and the community can make structural changes to how the police department operates.
Now, we have a system that rarely punishes officers after abuse happens. The Commission can change the system that consistently produces abuse, while also making sure the system of accountability is effective.
GAPA will create new opportunities for the engagement of people who interact most with the police through District Councils and the Commission. GAPA will create a system of checks and balances that keep the Mayor and the City Council involved so they can also be held to account.
The Commission we are fighting for will be chosen directly by people elected to serve on District Councils.
GAPA has been in conversation with those fighting for The Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) from the beginning. When we fight each other, the status quo wins. GAPA made the deliberate decision to never undercut CPAC publicly. The GAPA ordinance has some ideas that came from CPAC. The current version of CPAC has adopted different parts of GAPA. We continue to engage regularly with CPAC leaders and are very clear that ultimately we have the same
But there are key elements of CPAC that could make the ordinance very vulnerable to lawsuits. A reform that is stuck in and overturned in the courts is no reform at all. We need to make real change NOW. We believe GAPA is an ordinance that the city council has the power to enact and should survive lawsuits.
Former Mayor Emanuel blocked passage of GAPA. Citizen Lori Lightfoot stood with us when we introduced the GAPA ordinance; candidate Lori Lightfoot committed to pass GAPA in her first 100 days; Mayor Lori Lightfoot has not kept that promise. The stalling and attempts to weaken the GAPA ordinance is disappointing but not surprising. GAPA would take significant power from the Mayor and CPD, putting it in the hands of the
That is the GAPA we fight for.
Passage of GAPA is one part of a re-imagining of safety for the people of Chicago, and our work has not been limited to and will not stop with the passage of GAPA. ONE Northside has also been part of efforts to ensure that the federal consent decree leads to powerful reforms. The consent decree includes important issues like CPD in public schools, use of force, officer wellness and crisis intervention training. We worked on changes to the Chicago budget
that divests from the CPD and prioritizes mental health service and housing. We have organized around reforms to the toxic police union contracts, which enshrine many practices that protect abusive cops.
Passage of GAPA gives us the power to do even more. For example, the Commission could lead a process to explore how policing resources could be shifted to community-based services, and to community investment, and could work to turn that vision into a reality. We are eager to pass a strong GAPA ordinance and continue our work for a Chicago where safety for everyone is a priority; where our tax dollars are spent to feed and nurture everyone, not to oppress and control Black bodies; and where community control is at the forefront.
Did you miss our webinar on June 17, 2020 about the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability ordinance? Here is a link that will take you to the one hour recording.See GAPA Webinar Here!!
The ONE Northside Police Accountability Team