Superintendent Brown resisted CCPSA goal-setting

At a meeting of the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) on Thursday at Olive-Harvey College, interim commissioners said they encountered resistance from police superintendent David Brown in recent goal-setting meetings. 

The CCPSA, an oversight body created by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, is mandated to set annual goals for the police superintendent, Police Board, and Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). CCPSA’s interim commissioners will serve until Police District Councils, which will nominate commissioners to four-year terms, are elected on February 28. 

According to the commissioners, Brown’s team maintained that the CCPSA could not set any goals that might touch upon matters related to the federal consent decree the Chicago police department (CPD) has been under since 2017. After several weeks of stalling, Brown relented the morning of the meeting and agreed to the commission’s goals with minor revisions only.

Interim commissioners Beth Brown and Cliff Nellis were responsible for leading the goal-setting process with Superintendent Brown and offering them to the full CCPSA for approval. At Thursday’s meeting, Nellis told the audience of about 60 people that while negotiations with the superintendent ultimately ended “on a positive note” that morning, the previous two months had been difficult.

Interim commissioner Brown said the CCPSA first received Superintendent Brown’s proposed goals on December 1. In the proposal, the superintendent had simply copied three equity goals from a budget document. The commission, she said, felt that “did not reflect a meaningful and intentional analysis of what the superintendent would accomplish in 2023.” In their response to Superintendent Brown’s proposal, the CCPSA asked him to broaden the goals. 

According to interim commissioner Brown, over subsequent meetings the CCPSA was “disappointed . . . that we were met with legal arguments from [the superintendent’s] team as to what authority we have and do not have as a commission to set goals for him in 2023. The superintendent took the position that every goal that touched upon any matter covered by the consent decree should be removed from our goals and discussions.”

She noted that “almost every important matter regarding policing” is included in the consent decree, and that the only ones that aren’t included relate to community engagement and metrics. Every time the CCPSA met with the superintendent, his team removed all goals related to the consent decree based on an interpretation of the CCPSA’s legal authority that the commissioners didn’t agree with, she said. 

“Nearly 80 percent of the goals we submitted for consideration were stricken with no comment other than we had no legal authority to be setting them,” interim commissioner Brown said. “We had reached an impasse in our collaboration.”

To determine whether they were running afoul of the consent decree as the superintendent claimed, the CCPSA reached out to the lead sponsors of the ECPS ordinance and the chair of the City Council Committee on Public Safety. Nellis said the alderpersons responded in a letter that reiterated the CCPSA’s mandate to set goals for the superintendent, and specifically to “set goals related to matters of workforce allocation and the consent decree.” Under the ECPS ordinance, Nellis noted, the superintendent “has a responsibility to cooperate with the commission . . . and not interfere or obstruct” the CCPSA’s work. 

Nellis said the CCPSA was “fully expecting” to come to Thursday’s meeting without an agreement with Superintendent Brown. But at the last minute, the superintendent’s team agreed to the commission’s goals with only minor changes. 

In remarks delivered at the meeting, Superintendent Brown claimed that the responsibility for the impasse lay with the City’s Law Department. “I want to express that we fully accept the set goals. But I also want to add that we were not inconsistent with the [ECPS] ordinance and consent decree—”

“Lies, lies, lies,” shouted Sixth Police District Council candidate Eric Russell from the audience, before walking out of the meeting with a few others.

“We asked for guidance from the Department of Law,” Superintendent Brown continued. “We wanted the Department of Law to be the final arbiter, as they would with any agency.” Following his remarks, the CCPSA unanimously adopted the goals for the superintendent. They also adopted goals for the COPA chief administrator and the Police Board. The commissioners did not mention encountering resistance from either of those agencies while discussing their goals.

After the meeting, the superintendent reiterated to the Reader that the Department of Law hadn’t finished their review of the goals until the morning of the meeting. The Law Department did not immediately respond to the Reader’s request for comment.

Some of the goals the CCPSA and the superintendent ultimately agreed upon include a constitutional community policing strategy; an officer wellness strategy; and an HR strategy that prioritizes hiring “culturally competent officers who reflect the diverse people of Chicago and train them to be unbiased, measured, respectful, compassionate, and trauma-informed.” 

The goals require Superintendent Brown to attend CCPSA meetings, and he must develop a plan by February 28 “to ensure high-level CPD engagement in the work of the [Police] District Councils” and implement it after the election. He’s required to share a plan for incorporating feedback from the CCPSA, Police District Councils, and residents by April 1. And he must provide CCPSA with a plan and specific timeline for integrating “all community engagement and community policing programs” by June 1. 

Earlier in the meeting, interim commissioner Anthony Driver spoke about the CCPSA’s attempts to engage with the police department about its gang database. Very shortly after being seated on August 31, the commission was notified that the database would soon go live, but Driver said CPD has not informed them its timeline or status since then. 

CCPSA interim commissioner Anthony Driver went off-script to talk about CPD’s gang database. Jim Daley

“That’s why the commission felt it important to introduce our first policy directive in regards to the gang database,” Driver said. Superintendent Brown and two of his predecessors have described the database as a general order, which the CCPSA has jurisdiction over, but after the commission was seated, that changed. 

“For the last four months, we have been . . .  committing a large majority of our time fighting against the resurrection of a racist gang database that no one can coherently or intelligently speak to and tell me how it makes our city safe,” Driver said. He noted that he was recently robbed at gunpoint and that CPD was slow to respond, and said he felt that was in part because the department is focusing on the wrong issues. “The gang database as we know it is a racist policy. It is a policy that harms people,” he continued. “My father is in the gang database and he has never been in a gang a day of his life.” 

The commissioners voted to introduce a draft of a general order that would require CPD to obtain approval from the CCPSA before implementing any policy around collecting gang data. The commission will send the draft to CPD for review. Within 60 days, CPD can provide suggestions to the CCPSA, at which point they will accept or reject the suggestions. After a public comment period, the CCPSA will vote on the order.

Toward the close of the meeting, the commission explained that they are reviewing applications for members of the Police Board. They’re considering amending the application requirements, which currently require 10 years of experience in various fields including community organizing, to make them more accessible to youth applicants. 

Lastly, interim commissioner Oswaldo Gomez introduced the CCPSA’s nominees to its non-citizen advisory council. The three-member council will ensure CCPSA is “meeting the highest standards of inclusivity, access, and partnerships with our immigrant and newcomer communities.” The three nominees are Glo Choi, an organizer in the Korean community; Ariana Correa, a program manager for the Lieutenant Governor; and Mayra Gomez-Santana, a community advocate for violent crime survivors in the CPD’s Community Policing Office.

The next CCPSA meeting will be Thursday, February 23.

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