City of Chicago, IL

02/22/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/22/2024 19:53

Police Board President Kyle Cooper’s Update on the Arbitration Issue

Update at the February 22 Police Board Public Meeting

The purpose of these public meetings is to guarantee that the work of our board is open to public scrutiny. We have used these meetings to provide all Chicago residents with important information about our specific work and also information about the entire police-accountability system. That is why we have the Superintendent of Police, the Chief Administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and the Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety here-so there is a balanced and full view of the entire system. We have also had outside experts on police conduct and the Independent Monitor of the police consent decree present at the meetings to give a broad picture of what constitutes good police conduct.

The work we all do is about making decisions which balance public safety, the rights of all residents of Chicago, and the rights of the brave officers of the Chicago Police Department. When we write a decision, it is designed to be fair to the person filing a complaint and to the officer accused of misconduct. It also is intended to help everyone, especially officers, stay informed of what behavior conforms with the rules of appropriate police conduct which have been adopted by the CPD. There are thousands of officers every day making split-second decisions about what is the right action to take in a particular moment. We hope our decisions can help inform their actions.

We are currently in a situation where the authority of the Police Board is being challenged, so I want to use this opportunity to do what the Board has always done, which is to keep the public informed about the City's accountability system.

As I reported last month, in early January, Arbitrator Edwin Benn issued a supplemental opinion re-affirming his ruling that allows Chicago police officers to choose to have the most serious police disciplinary cases heard by an arbitrator rather than the Police Board. On February 15, the City Council again voted to reject the arbitrator's decision.

The matter is now pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, where the police officers' union, the Fraternal Order of Police, has filed two motions.

One motion asks the Court to continue to stay or put on hold all of the cases against police officers currently pending before the Police Board.

The other motion is a motion for summary judgment, which is a legal mechanism that allows a Court to decide a case without having a trial if the Court finds there is no reasonable dispute over the facts. The FOP's motion for summary judgment asks the Court to enforce the arbitrator's decision

The City of Chicago, represented by the Corporation Counsel, opposes both motions and is planning to file its own motion for summary judgment asking the Court to reject the arbitrator's award.

Regarding the request for a stay, you should know that, on January 31, the Court ordered all Police Board cases against police officers to be put on hold. This stay expires on February 25. The FOP, in its motion, is asking the court to indefinitely extend the stay. The court will likely rule on this request at a hearing scheduled to take place on February 26.

The Court's ruling on this issue is important, as there are currently 20 cases against police officers before the Police Board. The hearings for 3 of these cases have concluded and have been taken under advisement by the Board. Hearings for 5 cases are currently scheduled to take place from the last week of March through June. Hearings for the remaining 12 cases need to be scheduled (hearings for two of these cases were set to take place in February but had to be postponed because of the court order).

Continuing the hold on moving forward with these 20 cases will prevent the Board from exercising its duty under the Municipal Code to decide them and will delay an open and fair resolution of these serious cases.

Regarding the motions for summary judgment, the Court set a March 14 deadline for any responsive filings and has scheduled oral arguments for the afternoon of March 20.

The Police Board website will continue to keep the public informed of any new developments, and I encourage members of the public to check the News section of our website for updates.

In the meantime, you should know that the judge handling the court case has recognized the importance of the case to the public. The Board agrees. The members of the Police Board and I also believe that it is important for the public to understand that, if the arbitrator's decision is allowed to take effect, it would erode public trust in the police and reduce accountability for officers involved in serious wrongdoing.

Not only will the arbitrator's decision drive these cases behind closed doors, but it will also allow them to be decided by individual arbitrators, like Arbitrator Benn, who do not even live in Chicago. In fact, out of the five arbitrators chosen to decide FOP suspension grievances in 2023, at least three appear to live either in the suburbs or out of state.

As I have said before, if the arbitrator's decision is allowed to take effect, police accountability will suffer, and the people of Chicago will bear the consequences.