September 26, 2017- While the pending announcement of Sharon Fairley, the chief administrator for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, to resign comes as a surprise, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability believes the city of Chicago cannot repeat history by making hasty permanent decisions in response to problems that have taken decades to create and are singed into its culture.
The city’s long history of turning a blind eye to the abuse and misconduct of rogue officers within the Chicago Police Department is further compounded by an extreme lack of transparency and communication, particularly within communities of color and marginalized communities. As a result, there is a deep mistrust of Chicago police and city leaders within these most negatively impacted communities.
Last year, the task force recognized and carefully noted that the only way for a community oversight board to have legitimacy and build trust is if the community leads the efforts to create it. In response, community organizations came together to take on this challenging task. GAPA has been meeting intensively for more than a year, engaging deeply with residents throughout Chicago, particularly in communities where police-community relationships are most strained. We believe that our work will help make neighborhoods safer, improve police practices and accountability, and improve relationships between CPD and all the communities they serve. Since beginning this task, community residents have come a long way towards developing the recommendations the task force called for, but there is still more work to do. As we have said throughout this process, ‘We’re committed to doing it right, not doing it fast.’
The fact that COPA’s top two spots may be vacant soon is why we can’t rush this process. COPA needs stable leadership and the communities most impacted by police misconduct and abuse deserve stable leadership. There has been a process established to select the next leader of COPA until a permanent selection procedure is enacted. We hope the City will respect our process and the residents who have invested the time and effort to build a strong community oversight board. In the interim, we believe the ideal candidate to replace Ms. Fairley must be someone with instant credibility, who knows the city’s political landscape and land mines, who has a stellar reputation and will be objective and diligent about looking into cases that are questionable in terms of police misconduct.
We hope the structure Ms. Fairley has put in place allows her interim replacement to continue the work she’s started. In the meantime, GAPA will continue to move forward until the process of community engagement for a community oversight board is finalized.