CHICAGO – Members of the Chicago City Council today voted to approve a 10-year contract between the City of Chicago and the Fraternal Order of Police on behalf of police officers across the city. While the Council’s decision to reject the controversial arbitration clause for serious disciplinary cases is welcome, many of the remaining provisions of the contract fail to enforce the standards of transparency and accountability that the community demands.
In response to the vote, the ACLU of Illinois issued the following statement:
It is disappointing that the Council has given its blessing to an agreement that weakens accountability for Chicago Police Department officers. The contract and the process of approving it are especially troubling given the Administration’s publicly stated support for increased accountability for police officers, in particular, and more transparency in government, in general. This contract fails to meet both aspirations.
The contract fails to promote accountability because it allows officers facing disciplinary investigations with penalties of thirty days or less to go before an arbitrator for an abbreviated hearing – with no written arguments and an instant, binding decision. These measures further weight the disciplinary process in favor of police officers over the needs of residents harmed by those officers.
It also is troubling that the contract reinforces the “code of silence” by preventing officers from recording their conversations following shootings or other serious uses of force. Likely violating the Consent Decree, the contract also purports to prevent disciplinary proceedings from considering certain body-worn camera footage. Body worn cameras should be tools for increasing officer accountability – not something for officers to hide behind.
The process of approving this contract also failed to live up to the Administration’s promises of transparency. The City did not release details of the contract until the very last minute, preventing Council members and the public from being able to fully evaluate and consider the proposal. The ACLU of Illinois applauds the members of the City Council who raised these issues in this process. This work was critical to this debate. The public will need to live with the costs and consequences of the new FOP contract for a full decade. With the community’s trust in our public safety system on the line, the process deserved more transparency and discussion.
We urge Council members and the Mayor and his administration to live up to their promises of advancing police accountability and transparency. Chicago deserves policing in every community that is marked by accountability and discipline for those who violate standards.