Alderman proposes IPRA replacement

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CHICAGO -- A Chicago alderman has unveiled a new plan to hold police accountable and she wants citizens, not mayoral appointees calling the shots.

Alderman Leslie Hairston is taking aim at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s power over the process.

“What he has to understand is that it was the people who put him in office, will be the people who take him out of office if he does not begin to listen and to hear what they are asking for,” she said today.

Alderman Hairston said he should relinquish his power over the city’s independent police review authority, known as IPRA.

“The definition of a leader is somebody who does not mind ceding some power,” Hairston said.

Hairston is proposing an ordinance that would take IPRA out of the mayor’s hands, abolish it and replace it with a new “citizen police monitor” – a chief administrator chosen by a select committee of community members and government officials who would investigate allegations of police misconduct.

“This ordinance for an independent citizen police monitor is a direct response to years of biased investigations, lack of transparency and accountability and failure to address patterns and practices of abuse,” Hairston said. “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the minority of police officers who taint the entire Chicago police department.”

In a statement, IPRA’s spokeswoman said:

This is an important and complex issue and we look forward to engaging in future discussion with Alderman Hairston, the other members of the city council and the community about the future of police accountability in our city.

IPRA has been under the microscope and accused of white-washing police investigations for years.  Since IPRA was formed in 2007, more than 400 people have been shot and killed by Chicago police and IPRA has found only two cases to be "not justified"

Yet, the city has paid out a half a billion dollars for police brutality claims since 2004, the latest of which is a 4.9 million dollar settlement for the family of Philip Coleman, who was handcuffed and dragged out of a jail cell by police and later died.

University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman helped research and draft the proposed ordinance.

“IPRA’s been a critical part of the code of silence that’s protected police officers from abuse, so if you put it in the same situation, even good leadership doesn’t change it. Simply shuffling leaders isn’t going to fix things,” Futterman said.

The mayor has his own plan for police accountability.

This year, he appointed Sharon Fairley to head IPRA and she has been working to overhaul the authority.