City Council Approves Historic Reforms In Police Union Contracts

Chicago City Hall
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Chicago City Council approved Wednesday a host of historic police reforms that the city obtained in arbitration with the police unions that represent the more than 1,500 sergeants, lieutenants and captains in the Chicago Police Department.

According to the Mayor's Office, with Wednesday’s passage, the contract with the three Policemen's Benevolent & Protective Association (PBPA) units will now include a number of reform issues fought for by the city, including allowing anonymous complaints to be investigated, ending the requirement of destroying disciplinary records, preventing the names of complainants from being disclosed to officers until they are interviewed, and additional reforms that will align Chicago with national best practices.

The passage by City Council comes after years of bargaining with the police supervisors’ unions on reform measures that the Mayor has championed since she led the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF) more than four years ago.

In addition to issues decided by the arbitrator, the city and union resolved a host of issues through bargained agreements, the Mayor's Office said in a statement. The terms approved Wednesday reflect "legitimate input from the unions and efforts by the city to ensure the agreement strikes a balance between accountability, transparency and supervisors’ needs for reasonable procedural safeguards."

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“For years, I have fought for reforms that would further ensure accountability and transparency at every level of the police department. As mayor, I have not only prioritized these efforts, but doubled down on our reform commitments, which is why today’s ruling represents such a critical step forward in our path toward building a stronger police department and creating a safer Chicago for all,” said Mayor Lightfoot, in a statement. “Today’s historic win represents years of efforts to ensure our Chicago’s police union contracts represent the values of our officers and the residents they serve. We will continue fighting for these same reforms as well as other measures in our ongoing negotiations with the FOP.”

Under the historic changes, the Mayor's Office said, the city may now investigate anonymous complaints against police supervisors. For the last 40 years, the governing contracts prohibited investigations of potentially meritorious complaints of misconduct solely because they were anonymous. Both the PATF report and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings on CPD noted that this provision in police contracts had not only discouraged the reporting of officer misconduct, but also reaffirmed fears of retaliation for reporting complaints against police officers. By ensuring that the city has the power to investigate such complaints, the latest measure aligns CPD with other major police departments from across the nation.

“These reforms and new measures represent not only the values of our city but also those of the Chicago Police Department,” said Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, in a statement. “The first step to building trust between officers and the communities they serve is ensuring accountability and transparency is reflected within our police contracts. Today’s passage by City Council will ensure just that.”

The Mayor's Office said the award clarifies that officers under investigation are not permitted to learn the name of the person complaining against them until immediately prior to their interview, which typically comes at the end of an investigation. This change addresses concerns raised in the PATF report and the DOJ report on CPD regarding concerns about retaliation and intimidation relating to complaints made against officers.

As part of efforts to further ensure accountability and transparency across all levels of CPD, the new contracts will recognize that supervisors may be acknowledged for coming forward with information about officer misconduct, and specifically requires them to report all misconduct.

Additionally, the award also removes the contract provisions requiring destruction of disciplinary files and records after five years. This ruling is in line with last week’s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, which rejected the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police’s argument that its collective bargaining agreement overrules the state’s Local Records Act. This ruling upheld CPD’s refusal to implement this union provision over the past several years.

The Mayor's Office said, the terms approved Wednesday grant CPD greater information about employment by police supervisors during their off-duty time, including where they are working and the number of hours they work. Unlike every other city employee, police officers had previously not been required to disclose this information. It also allows the department to impose a 16-hour cap on working any job within a 24-hour period unless ordered by the department. This again aligns the city with best practices from other jurisdictions.

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New reforms also include changes in the interrogation process for officers under investigation, including permitting interrogators to note on the record when a supervisor consults with his or her lawyer during an interview.

The measures awarded by the arbitrator will be applied to the Chicago Police’s sergeants, lieutenants and captains following City Council ratification. The reforms won in the police supervisors’ contracts will serve as a roadmap for measures being pursued in the contract for rank-and-file officers as part of ongoing negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7.