Chicago, IL – The City Council approved the first new Chicago police contract in four years on Sept. 14 in a vote that was the final step for a contract worth more than $700 million.
Almost 80 percent of the members of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) also voted to approve the contract, WBEZ reported.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had endorsed the deal ahead of the vote.
“This is a reasonable deal for the taxpayers of the city,” Lightfoot said. “It provides, I think, a very responsible financial package to the rank-and-file members.”
Officers have been working without a raise since their prior contract expired in 2017, WBEZ reported.
Lightfoot has pointed the blame for that at her predecessor, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
“It is unfortunate that when we came into office, this contract was already expired by two years, and then it took another two years to get this done,” the mayor said.
The new contract includes an immediate 10.5 percent pay raise for officers to cover the past four years, WBEZ reported.
Officers will also receive retroactive paychecks for thousands of dollars to compensate them for the raises they didn’t get.
Those officers who joined the force after July of 2017 will receive pro-rated compensation, WBEZ reported.
Documents provided by city council members showed the city owed officers about $378 million in retroactive raises.
The officers’ new contract included 2.5 percent raises for the next three years and a two percent increase before the contract expires in June of 2025, WBEZ reported.
The retroactive and prospective raises combined boost officer pay about 20 percent.
Advocates of defunding the police were outraged at the size of the package, WBEZ reported.
But city council members said it was a good deal and officers said that it came as a relief at a time when the department was experiencing critically-low morale amongst the rank-and-file.
“This is the best deal possible for the union, for the city to move forward and to give us labor peace for both us and our police department,” 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez told WBEZ.
The new contract also came with some of the police reforms that accountability advocates had been calling for.
Under the new contract, the city can investigate citizen complaints without a sworn affidavit from the person who complained, WBEZ reported.
The FOP has argued that requiring people who complain to sign a document swearing their report is true helps prevent false accusations against innocent officers.
Anti-police activists have countered that the requirement made people afraid to register legitimate complaints against officers, WBEZ reported.
FOP President John Catanzara had said last summer the union was only willing to agree to dropping the requirement if the city dropped the residency requirement and allowed officers to strike.
However, neither of those items ended up in the final deal, WBEZ reported.
A change in state law cleared the path for anonymous complaints against officers.
And so they went into the new contract with one caveat – the head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) or the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA) will have to certify anonymous complaints, according to WBEZ.
Under the new rules, an official will have to review “objective verifiable evidence” and sign off in order for a probe to be started.
Critics have said requiring certification means it was a “change in reform name only,” WBEZ reported.
Under the old contract, officers were allowed to change their statements to city investigators after they watched the video of the incident in potential cases of misconduct.
However, under the new deal, COPA or BIA can charge an officer with lying if the initial statement on record was contradicted by audio or video evidence, according to WBEZ.
The new contract mandates investigators to “consider all original statements, and any subsequent statements, including amended or modified statements, for purposes of determining whether an officer willfully made a false statement.”
Police critics said the change wasn’t enough and made it too difficult to charge officers who didn’t tell the truth, WBEZ reported.
The mayor said the city would continue to work with the police union to reform the accountability system.
“We’re continuing to negotiate with the FOP on a number of other things that we fought with the supervisors union on and won through arbitration,” Lightfoot said. “So this is the start, it is not an end. But it’s an incredibly powerful set of concessions that are necessary for us to keep building on police reform and accountability.”