Got something to say about policing in Chicago? You can now run for a spot on the new police district councils.

The councils are part of a plan creating civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department, a plan that will be kicking into high gear in February when voters get to decide who will represent them on these councils.

The Triibe has a really good explainer on the ins and outs of these councils. Three people are elected in each of the city’s 22 police districts.

These council members will play a significant role in “building stronger connections between police and the community.”

They also get to nominate permanent members to the citywide Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which will hire future police superintendents and the head of the city agency overseeing investigations into police misconduct.

Chicago residents interested in running for the district councils have until Nov. 28 to collect “between 300 and 700 signatures, depending on the number of registered voters in each police district,” The Triibe reports.

What are District Councils?

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. 

District Councils will be created in each of the City’s 22 police districts. They will be made of up three people elected in regular municipal elections every four years, though anyone can participate in District Council work, and the more people who participate, the more effective the District Councils can be. The first District Council elections will be in February 2023, when Chicagoans will also vote for candidates for aldermen and the mayor. 

The District Councils will have several key roles:

  • Building stronger connections between the police and the community at the district level, where the community is a true partner in making the neighborhood safer. They can work with the police to solve problems and set priorities.
  • Collaborating in the development and implementation of community policing initiatives.
  • Holding monthly public meetings, where residents can work with the police on local initiatives rooted in community concerns and priorities. They can also raise and work to address concerns about policing in the district, and increase accountability.
  • Working with the community to get input on police department policies and practices.
  • Working to develop and expand restorative justice and similar programs in the police district.
  • Ensuring that the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability gets input from the community, so that the Commission’s work will be based on what people in neighborhoods across the city are concerned about.
  • Nominating members of the Community Commission. Anyone who serves on the Community Commission must first have the support of elected District Council members.

(Source: Municipal Code of Chicago, 2-80-070(a) and (e))

Who is eligible to serve on the District Councils? 

  • You must be a registered voter
  • You must have lived in the police district where you want to run for at least one year before the election
  • You can’t be a member of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability
  • You can’t have been an employee of the Chicago Police Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), or the Police Board any time since May 2020
  • Under state law, you can’t owe money to the City of Chicago, or have been convicted of a felony, unless it was expunged

 (Source: Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5, and Municipal Code of Chicago, 2-80-070(b))

How much time will it take to be a District Council member?

  • District Councils are new, so the time commitment is uncertain, but anticipate that it will take about 20 hours per month.

Will District Council members be paid? 

  • District Council members will receive a stipend of $500 every month.

What do I need to do if I want to run? 

  • You’ll need to file a Statement of Candidacy with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners
  • You’ll need to gather signatures on nominating petitions from eligible voters who support you and file them with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners
    • The number of signatures you need depends on the number of registered voters in your police district. It’s probably between 300-700 signatures
    • You can start collecting signatures on August 30, 2022
    • You must submit signed petitions between November 21, 2022 and November 28, 2022
  • You’ll need to file a Statement of Economic Interest with the Cook County Clerk by November 28, 2022
  • You’ll need to file a Statement of Financial Interest with the City of Chicago Board of Ethics within five days of qualifying as a candidate
  • If you accept campaign contributions or spend more than $5000 on your campaign, you’ll need to file campaign disclosure documents with the Illinois State Board of Elections.