City of Chicago, IL

01/05/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/05/2024 14:38

Statement from Police Board President Kyle Cooper on the Arbitrator’s Recent Opinion Regarding Police Disciplinary Cases

I strongly disagree with Arbitrator Edwin Benn's recent ruling, which, if implemented, would disrupt a system that has effectively promoted transparency and accountability in handling serious cases of police misconduct in the City of Chicago for over sixty years.

While Arbitrator Benn inappropriately accuses the Mayor and City Council members of violating their oath of office, makes perplexing references to former President Trump's "big lie" and reinforces an arbitrary retroactive date, there is no question that if his ruling is allowed to take effect, it would erode public trust in the police and reduce accountability for officers involved in serious wrongdoing. Such an outcome serves neither the public nor the vast majority of dedicated Chicago police officers who risk their lives daily to serve the City.

Contrary to Arbitrator Benn's assertions, the distinctions between proceedings before the Police Board and private arbitration are both significant and undeniable. For example, charges brought against officers are publicly available on the Police Board's website, whereas arbitration keeps them shrouded in secrecy. The Police Board conducts disciplinary hearings in an open forum, while arbitration proceedings are closed to the public. The Police Board takes final action in full view of the public during monthly meetings, while arbitrators render their decisions in private. The Police Board publishes detailed written decisions on its website, explaining the rationale behind its findings, whereas arbitrators' decisions remain secret and concealed from public scrutiny.

These distinctions go beyond mere procedural matters, as extensive public reporting on this issue has repeatedly confirmed that when police disciplinary cases are funneled through private arbitration, officers either evade punishment altogether, or their recommended sentences are routinely reduced by as much as 50%.

Put simply, if this ruling is allowed to take effect, police accountability will suffer, and the people of Chicago will bear the consequences.

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