Why is the legislature silent on police reform?

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FOP President John Catanzara won’t bargain police reform.

The Chicago Tribune describes the difficulties facing Mayor Lightfoot and other city mayors in reforming policing through contract bargaining.

While Mayor Lightfoot is not alone, we have a “lodge” of the Fraternal Order of Police that is headed by a racist and hostile leader, an open Trump supporter, who has made it clear he has no interest in bargaining reform.

Bargaining reform would mean removing the language in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that shields police from criminal abuse charges.

Among them is a rule that gives cops who shoot people 24 hours before speaking to disciplinary investigators. Police argue it’s only fair to allow cops time to process a traumatic event.

Reform advocates counter that delaying interviews gives cops time to match up their accounts. They pointed to the McDonald shooting as evidence that police will give similar details that clash with video footage.

Following a DOJ investigation following the murder of Laquan McDonald, the city agreed in a consent decree to meet a long list of policing reforms.

The Chicago Police Department has missed more than two-thirds of its consent decree deadlines, according to a new report by the independent monitor tasked with overseeing the CPD’s mandated reforms.

The CPD met just 22 of 74 deadlines between September 2019 and Feb. 29, 2020, according to Independent Monitor Maggie Hickey.

That is not acceptable.

But as the Tribune points out, the FOP contract undermines many of the agreements in the Consent Decree.

The crisis gave rise to a 2016 city task force report and the 2017 U.S. Department of Justice report that criticized the union contracts. Last year, a federal judge enacted a consent decree, a broad court order requiring changes to training, supervision and discipline. The decree, however, states that it doesn’t override existing union contracts but calls on the city to make its “best efforts” to win changes.

Chicago has several officer unions, but the FOP has been front and center in the reform debate. The union represents a wide majority of the city’s 13,000 officers, including the patrol cops who have frequently been involved in controversial shootings and other uses of force. The pushback against the contractual changes is just one battlefront for a union that generally opposes reform and repeatedly has defended members credibly accused of serious misconduct.

The negotiations between the Mayor and the FOP has stalled.

A rule of thumb of bargaining a contract is that once something is in an agreement, it is near impossible to remove it. FOP President Catanzara has made it clear he has no interest in bargaining reform.

That leaves it to the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker. They can enact legislation that removes the language in the CBA that shields police misconduct as an issue of bargaining. They can remove it by statute.

Why does the Mayor have to bargain reform with Catanzara and the FOP?

Why is the General Assembly silent on this?



3 thoughts on “Why is the legislature silent on police reform?

  1. How about party leadership does not think it a good idea and do not want to put their name to it?

    Remember this is Illinois.

    Possibly the proposed Federal Registry may solve the hiding issue.

    Remember the Millionaire Tax – 18 months we have nothing close – the debt is large and growing.

  2. Perhaps the legislators are worried about a counter-revolution from the right and the moderate left who realize that public order is the sine qua non of a democratic government whose citizens and voters are fed up with far-left agitating for violent overthrow of government and society. I notice that comments by your readers have fallen off a cliff since this issue has replaced the focus on public pensions. Pension funds are still paying out more than they are taking in. If they are ever to be funded the taxpayers must go back to work and the customers must start shopping. It’s cognitive dissonance to believe lifetime pensions and healthcare can be sustained by the lawless and the unemployed and the sheltered in place.

    Income distribution in the state and the country admittedly sucks. The well-off should take less so that more can eat and enjoy good health. Income and wealth distribution scholars should look closely at relative wealth and comfort of those in their 70s and older. Perhaps a much steeper estate tax on assets >$500K once the entitled old and their spouses/significant others pass on. Why perpetuate the wealth inequity for generations to come? The law should protect reasonable expectations of long-term workers but not the potential inheritances of kids and grandkids. BTW: tax retirement income above (say) $70K per year and tax 401(k) and 403(b) balances above (say) $1 million — inflation adjust the numbers if you want. And end the special deals for state/national legislators and military regarding health care. If there were a single plan for everyone modeled on the VA, we could count on improvement for everybody. As to public retirement plans, support a PBGC-type federal guarantee of 35 year pensions at $75K per year and let public retirees choose whether to take the guarantee or risk the collapse of their state and local plans.

    This would be just a start. Or a Just Start. Then we could tackle zoning laws and gerrymandering and the electoral college and climate change. And reopen all the small colleges that are going bankrupt in the next 12 months. And pave some roads and fix some bridges and forgive some college debt and you’d have a lot more things to write about.


    Frederic Lee Coates

    1. Mr. Coates,
      Thank you for your concern about my comments “falling off a cliff.”
      If is true that since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that cuts to our pension benefits is unconstitutional, my blog’s numbers have declined. I take that as a good thing since it means that public employees feel more secure about their pensions.
      And you are also correct that many public employees who read this blog before the 2015 court ruling are not as interested (to say the least) when I write about racial injustice or police brutality. Many were cops themselves who didn’t mind it when I fought for their pensions but about the killing of Michael Brown and others? Not so much.
      As you must know, I am a retired teacher who, while would wish for a wide audience for my views, am not so interested in my ratings.
      And so I will write about pensions, income equality, social justice, fair taxes, and police misconduct.
      And I appreciate that you are still reading.

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