Mayor Brandon Johnson chooses 7 members to serve on Chicago’s permanent police oversight commission

Anthony Driver Jr., president of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, speaks at a City Hall news conference in March 2023.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The president and vice president of Chicago’s Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability on Tuesday are among Mayor Brandon Johnson’s choices to serve on the permanent panel responsible for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department.

Anthony Driver Jr. and interim vice president Remel Terry are among seven mayoral nominees to the permanent commission.

They will be joined by attorney Sandra Wortham, the sister of slain Chicago Police Officer Thomas Wortham IV, who is now serving as executive board president of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

The mayor’s four other choices: Aaron Gottlieb, Abierre Minor, Angel Rubi Navarijo and Kelly Presley.

Driver led the nationwide search that culminated in Johnson’s widely-acclaimed appointment of CPD Supt. Larry Snelling.

Among the “really pressing issues” he hopes the permanent panel will address are consent decree compliance, traffic stops and slow police response times.

“There’s nowhere in the city I go — especially on the South and West sides — where people are not upset about the response times and, sometimes, the police not even showing up at all,” Driver told the Sun-Times.

The City Council is threatening to undo Johnson’s decision to continue using the ShotSpotter gunshot technology. For now, the mayor has arranged to keep ShotSpotter through the traditionally violent summer months, which this year will include the Democratic National Convention in August, then cancel the contract on Nov. 22. The mayor announced that controversial decision one week after the Driver-led interim commission hosted a public forum that devolved into a shouting match between supporters and critics of ShotSpotter.

Driver said he remains deeply concerned about whether Chicago neighborhoods are “prepared for the change.”

“With so little percentages of calls having a corresponding 911 call, I have a very big concern about victims not getting the help that they need,” Driver said.

Terry said her foremost concern is “community engagement” and getting “more community voices at the table and in the room.”

“We have a lot of impacted people from these different communities who aren’t being heard,” she said.

The seven mayoral nominees were among 14 chosen by a 22-member commission — one from each of the 22 district councils.

Four of the seven commission members will serve for four years. The other three will serve two-year terms. The length will be decided by a random drawing conducted by Adam Gross, executive director of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability.

All commission members will receive a $12,000 annual stipend. The commission president — chosen by fellow members — will be paid $15,000 a year.

Not just anybody can apply for a seat on the commission. Among the requirements is that applicants must have been Chicago residents for the last five years. They also cannot have worked for the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability or the Chicago Police Board during that period.

Applicants also must have “at least five years combined experience in one or more of the following fields: law, public policy, social work, psychology, mental health, public safety, community organizing, civil rights or advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities,” according to the city’s website.

A current resume and three letters of support are required from each applicant, who have the option of submitting a written statement detailing their “experience with policing and the criminal legal system.”

Of the seven members, six must meet geographic distribution requirements — two from the North Side, two from the South Side, two from the West Side — and must have lived in that area for at least one year before being appointed.

At least one must have at least 10 years of experience as a practicing attorney “with significant experience in civil rights, civil liberties or criminal defense or prosecution.” At least one must have, at minimum, a decade of experience in “community organizing that involves a formal affiliation with one or more community-based organizations.”

Two members will be exempt from those requirements and “shall be between the ages of 18 and 24.”

The rigid requirements stem, in part, from the sweeping powers and the responsibility to deliver civilian oversight of the police department seen as pivotal to restoring shattered trust between citizens and police.

The landmark ordinance approved by the City Council in July 2021 also empowers the commission to conduct a nationwide search for Chicago’s next police superintendent whenever a vacancy occurs, as well as vacancies on the Police Board.

The commission must also establish annual goals for the police department and COPA, which investigates allegations of misconduct by police officers. And it will set police policy not covered by the consent decree and measure progress toward fulfilling those goals.

The commission is authorized to take a vote of no-confidence in the superintendent and Police Board members that would trigger a similar vote by the City Council after public hearings.

Although the ultimate decision on the superintendent’s fate would still rest with the mayor, back-to-back no-confidence votes in the superintendent would create enormous political pressure that would be difficult for the mayor to ignore.

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