Police Board President Kyle Cooper: Rejecting the Arbitrator’s Decision on Police Discipline is Necessary to Ensure Transparency, Accountability and Reduce Costs of Police Misconduct
I once again urge the City Council to reject Arbitrator Edwin Benn’s recent decision on police discipline. Rejection is necessary to ensure transparency, accountability and to reduce the costs associated with police misconduct for the following reasons:
- The public hearings on the Adam Toledo shooting and the cases against 15 other officers will be driven behind closed doors. If the arbitrator’s decision is not rejected, the public, the victims’ families, others directly affected by the officers’ accused conduct and the accused officers themselves will be deprived of a full and fair public hearing on the most serious charges faced by Chicago police officers.
- There is no question that leaving the public in the dark about what happens in these important cases will erode the community’s trust in the police. Worsening relations between the police and the public will make reducing crime more difficult, especially in areas of the City that bear the greatest harm and costs of violence.
- A lack of transparency and the loss of accountability that goes with it will likely increase the already large amount the City currently pays in police-misconduct court settlements and judgments. This is because arbitration will make it more difficult to hold officers accountable, which, in turn, will cost the City much more money, dwarfing any legal expenses that stem from challenging the arbitrator’s decision.
- Failure to reject the arbitrator’s decision will stick the City with an arbitrary and unworkable retroactive effective date that will expose taxpayers to additional liability and will require the City to keep on the payroll officers who have been recommended for firing and who have been stripped of their police powers.
- Rejecting private arbitration for public officials who have the right to use deadly force is not anti-union. Rather, it recognizes that the job of a police officer, as dangerous and difficult as it may be, is different than other union jobs. Chicago should not be the next City to succumb to the FOP’s nationwide effort to erode well-established systems of police accountability.
In short, rejecting Arbitrator Benn’s decision is the right thing to do. Both for the residents of Chicago and for the overwhelming majority of Chicago Police Officers who risk their lives daily protecting the City.
Rejecting the award may also give the City another opportunity to get the FOP back to the table to negotiate a mutually agreeable path forward. A union working for its members should want to negotiate a sensible resolution to this stalemate rather than jam the City Council members into an all or nothing vote which jeopardizes not only transparency but also the public’s faith in the police accountability system. Allowing the decision to stand, on the other hand, will roll back decades of hard-fought progress on the accountability front and ultimately harm the people of Chicago.