What is the Community Commission?

In July 2021, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance creating a new model for police oversight, accountability, and public safety. The ordinance creates two bodies: a citywide Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, with power to advance systemic reform, and District Councils, which will be elected in each police district and work to improve policing and public safety in the district. The Commission and District Councils will bring police officers and Chicago residents together to plan, prioritize, and build mutual trust; strengthen the police accountability system; give Chicagoans a meaningful new role in oversight; and explore and advance alternative effective approaches to public safety. 

The Community Commission has seven members who meet qualifications that are described in the ordinance. An Interim Community Commission was named in August 2022. The City Council had an open application process and nominated 14 candidates to serve on the Interim Commission, and the Mayor chose seven of them. Interim Commissioners will serve until members of the permanent Commission are nominated, selected, and confirmed.

Starting in the Summer or Fall of 2023, elected community members who serve on District Councils in each police district will nominate 14 candidates to serve on the permanent Commission, and the Mayor will choose seven of them. Commissioners must also be confirmed by the City Council. Commissioners will serve four-year terms. There are qualifications to serve on the Commission, and anyone who meets the qualifications can apply to be on it. The Commission will have public meetings at least once a month. 

The Commission has a range of powers, including:

  • Playing a central role in selecting and removing the Police Superintendent, Police Board members, and the COPA Chief Administrator
    • When there is an opening for Police Superintendent or a member of the Police Board, the Commission will develop a short list of candidates.The Mayor must choose from the Commission’s list or request a new list. Once the Mayor makes a selection, the City Council will vote whether to confirm.
    • The Mayor has sole authority to remove the Police Superintendent and Police Board members. But if the Commission believes that one of those officials is not fit to do the job, theCommission can hold hearings and take a vote of no confidence in the official. That would trigger a City Council hearing and vote and a public response from the Mayor.
    • The Commission will select the COPA Chief Administrator, subject to City Council confirmation. The Commission, with City Council approval, can also remove the COPA Chief for cause.
  • Setting Police Department policy
    • Both the Police Department and the Commission can draft Police Department General Orders, but General Orders don’t become policy without a majority vote of the Commission.
    • Where there is disagreement about policy between the Police Department and the Commission, there is a process to build consensus and seek to resolve all differences.
    • Ultimately, the Commission may vote on any policy that is before it.
    • The Mayor may veto a Commission-enacted policy. The City Council may override a mayoral veto by a 2/3 vote.
    • The Commission cannot set policies covered by the Police Department Consent Decree.
    • The Commission will gather public input on policies, including by posting draft policies on its website and offering the public opportunities to comment.
    • The Commission plays the same role as described above in setting policy for COPA and the Police Board.
  • Establishing goals and evaluating progress for the Police Department, COPA, and the Police Board
    • At the beginning of each year, the Commission will set goals for the Superintendent and the Police Department, the Chief Administrator and COPA, and the Police Board President and the Police Board. 
    • At the end of each year, the Commission will evaluate the progress that was made toward meeting the established goals.
  • Reviewing the Police Department budget
    • Before the City Council votes on the annual City budget, the Commission must review and may recommend changes to the proposed Police Department budget appropriation.
  • Working with the Police Department on community policing programs
  • Identifying and recommending preventative, proactive, community-based, and evidence-based solutions to violence, including non-policing alternatives
  • Making recommendations to the Public Safety Inspector General about research or audits to conduct
  • Promoting community engagement and transparency
    • The Commission will hold public meetings at least once a month.
    • The Commission will conduct outreach to get a range of perspectives on police-community relations, Police Department policies and practices, and the police accountability system.
    • The Commission will appoint a Noncitizen Advisory Council to ensure that the perspectives and experiences of Chicago residents who are not United States citizens are reflected and incorporated in the Commission's work.
    • The Commission can require the Police Superintendent and other key officials to provide data and reports, and to appear in public forums to address questions.
    • The Commission may publish public reports on matters of community concern.

(Source: Municipal Code of Chicago, 2-80-040(c) and (d), and 2-80-050)