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Johnson to choose from 15 candidates for civilian police oversight board

A brand-new group of elected officials on Friday named 15 finalists to serve as the first permanent members of a civilian body overseeing city public safety decisions and operations of the Chicago Police Department.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, created under the 2021 Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, plays a central part in selecting and removing the police superintendent, police board members and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s chief administrator. Angelica Green, one of 22 police district council members who led the selection process for the commission, said 120 people applied for a seat on the seven-member board.

A burst of applause followed the nominations for 15 candidates. Green put her microphone down in apparent surprise before she remarked: “It is historic.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson has 30 days to make final selections from the pool, per the ordinance. Those he chooses will be the first permanent members of a board established after years of advocacy and negotiation, intended to improve public safety as well as accountability for cops accused of misconduct.

Members of the newly created police district councils — also a product of the 2021 ordinance — have been at work on the nomination process since July 2023, Green said.

Two of the nominees announced Friday are members of an interim oversight commission, which was appointed by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot in August 2022 and helped select Superintendent Larry Snelling a year later. They are President Anthony Driver and Ramel Terry, the director of programs at the racial equity advocacy organization Equiticity.

Also among the candidates are retired Cook County Judge Edward Washington II, Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Board President Sandra Wortham and Catholic Charities’ Associate General Counsel Kelly Pressley.

Some are politically connected: Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth’s Director of Constituent Services Angel Rubi Navarijo, La’Mont Williams, Cook County Comm. Bill Lowry’s chief of staff La’Mont Williams, Johnson’s Community Engagement Manager Bernardo Gomez and State Sen. Mattie Hunter’s former chief of staff Abierre Minor are all part of the final pool.

Nominee Deondre Rutues is also one of the district’s newly elected police district councilors in the Austin (15th) police district.

Other nominees helped to advocate for the ordinance that led to the commission’s formation or are involved with the consent decree that currently governs CPD operations or the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The district councilors approved the nominations for the new commission in a vote of 17 to 1. Dion McGill, a member of the Englewood (7th) Police District Council was the lone “no” vote.

McGill declined to give specific reasons for why he opposed the final group of candidates, only saying that he needed to represent the concerns of his district in Englewood.

Sam Schoenberg, a member of the Town Hall (19th) district police council, said the eight-month nomination process had been challenging because the councilors had to establish a selection process “from scratch — and we had to replace the entire commission at once.”

Johnson has until April 7 to choose seven candidates. If he rejects any of the candidates, he will need to state his reason for doing so in writing, per the ordinance.

The full list of nominees is below:

Jose Abonce, senior program manager, Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative

Anthony Driver, interim president, Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability

Bernardo Gomez, manager, Mayor’s Office of Community Engagement

Aaron Gottlieb, professor at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work

Nakiyah Matthews, academic advisor, Introspect Youth Services

Art Mitchell, deputy director of litigation and policy, National Democratic Redistricting Committee

Abierre Minor, chief fiscal officer, Progressive Minds Show

Angel Rubi Navarijo, director of constituent services, Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (46th)

Kelly Pressley, associate general counsel, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago

Deondre Rutues, Austin (15th) Police District Council member

Nyashana Sumner, assistant state’s attorney, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Remel Terry, interim member, Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability

Sandra Wortham, administrative law judge for the city of Chicago

La’Mont Williams, chief of staff, Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry

Edward Washington II, former Cook County Circuit Court Judge