Chicago’s Latino Caucus endorses civilian oversight plan following police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo


Audrey Champelli | The DePaulia

Attendees at the April 16 protest against police violence fill the west side of Logan Square Park and overflow onto Logan Boulevard.

The Latino Caucus of the Chicago City Council voted to endorse the civilian police oversight ordinance on April 6. The ordinance is also backed by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Responsibility (GAPA) and the coalition for the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, five aldermen in the 13-member Hispanic Caucus did not participate in the vote, which passed  7 to 1. 

Ald. George Cardenas said he did not participate in the vote because he believes Mayor Lori Lightfoot alone must be responsible for the city’s public safety.

Ald. Andre Vasquez of the 40th Ward said that he and other aldermen have identified how public safety and policing in the city has been ineffective. 

“Having the mayor be in control of the police has been an inherent conflict of interest when the person who is in charge of holding them accountable also depends on keeping communities safe,” Vasquez said.

The statement cites the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo on March 29 in the Little Village community. The Chicago Latino Caucus has voted to support the ordinance because of broken police policies and the need of police accountability in Chicago. 

“If you want to have trust between communities of color and those who are supposed to protect them, then you need accountability to be in place by the community,” Vasquez said.

According to GAPA spokesperson Jonathan Elbaz, “the community is exhausted from grieving over Black and Brown people who have been killed and harmed by police. The community wants change and the ordinance provides an opportunity to change the equation when it comes to policing and public safety.”

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist Political Repression (CAARPR) and GAPA announced on March 18 that they will work on a joint oversight committee called Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) to be run by civilians, which is a key part in police reform.

In a statement, Desmon Yancy, GAPA spokesperson and an organizer with the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) said the ordinance “empowers communities.” 

“It ensures that the police department is accountable to our residents and that our public safety system reflects our values,” Yancy’s statement reads. 

Their goal is to create a community commission on public safety, create district councils and create an opportunity for additional democratic reform.

ECPS needs 34 votes out of the 50 members of city council to pass the committee.

“It makes sense to have the Latino Caucus to support ECPS because they represent 12 of the city council members,” Vasquez said. “So being able to show that the majority of our caucus is in support shows that we are serious about it.” 

The ordinance would have members be elected to four-year terms in the district councils. Anyone interested in being a part of the police oversight district councils would need community organizing experience. 

“It just makes sense for civilians and those who have been greatly impacted by police violence be the ones that are elected and make those calls,” Vasquez added.

The board would create rules for the Chicago Police Department, appoint the superintendent and appoint members of the Police Board to hear disciplinary issues.

Lightfoot planned to create a police civilian ordinance during her first 100 days in office. So far, she has not mentioned a concrete plan for it.

Lightfoot’s goal is to implement a civilian ordinance under her leadership, despite work already done by grassroot organizations for a civilian oversight group. Their work is centered around including the community to create police accountability.

“The coalition has thousands of people volunteering to phone bank, canvas and send emails to their aldermen expressing their support,” Elbaz said.

Additionally, the ordinance creates an opportunity for democratic reform by including a binding referendum in the 2022 primary ballot that asks Chicago voters if they want to directly elect the members of the Commission and expand its powers.

If the referendum passes, the Commission would be replaced by an 11-person body, with nine elected Commissioners and two appointed Commissioners, with the power to hire and fire the police superintendent, COPA chief and to appoint or remove Police Board members.

“Lightfoot has to give the community power and voice so they can choose how public safety works in their communities,” Elbaz said. “I think the tragedy of Adam Toledo shows how urgent these changes are. We can’t wait any longer.”