Issues of reforming policing in Oak Park are front and center on the agenda of a special village board meeting occurring Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Trustees are set to consider a resolution to defund the police department put forward by Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla. A staff memo suggesting ways to expand transparency on the Citizen Police Oversight Commission is also on the agenda. And, village staff presented a Request for Proposals for a village board-ordered third-party audit of the police department.

Walker-Peddakotla’s defunding resolution cited the village’s early initiatives on race and urges reducing sworn police officers while adding social workers to address issues of mental illness, homelessness and domestic disputes.

“To me what defunding the police looks like is reallocating or reprioritizing our budget to fit the moral priorities of our village,” Walker-Peddakotla told Wednesday Journal.

The staff proposal on the Citizen Police Oversight Committee calls for protecting the identities of both complainants and accused officers while making the discussion of specific complaints a public process. Those recommendations to the village board came from Rasheda Jackson, assistant village attorney, and Kira Tchang, the village’s human resources director.

The resolution to defund the police department states that Oak Park must “engage in efforts to defund the Oak Park Police department and redistribute those funds towards social services.”

“We are not having the right conversations at the board table,” Walker-Peddakotla said. “The stuff that we are doing is the bare minimum that the public has called for.”

Walker-Peddakotla said that the board is “unwilling” to have the “hard conversations” surrounding why the village pays so much for policing.  

The resolution also dictates that the village of Oak Park must “reduce unnecessary and often racially-motivated and harmful contact between Black and Latinx people and Oak Park police.”

The resolution calls for decreasing the amount spent on policing by reducing the number of sworn officers during the budget cycle of fiscal year 2021 and commit to making further reductions in future budget cycles. The resolution does not specify a funding target.

“In the resolution, you won’t see defund by X amount or by X number of police officers,” said Walker-Peddakotla.

Walker-Peddakotla wants the resolution to start the conversation regarding how much to defund by and when, so staff can begin researching a plan to carry out cuts.

The resolution also calls on the village to rescind ordinances and laws that could be used to unfairly target Black and Latinx youth and to acknowledge harm done by policing by enacting a memorial day for victims of police violence.

“We know that in Oak Park Black youth get unfairly targeted,” said Walker-Peddakotla. “There is data to show this.”  

The number of emails from citizens in favor of defunding the police sent to the board of trustees greatly exceeds the number of emails from those who oppose actions to defund, according to Walker-Peddakotla.

“We’ve recently received over 150 emails at the village board email in favor of this,” said Walker-Peddakotla.

The board has received fewer than 10 emails from people not in favor of defunding, she said.

“Most people in our community already know what defunded police looks like,” Walker-Peddakotla said.

The argument that the crime rate makes funding police necessary, Walker-Peddakotla called a “false notion,” as is using perpetrator statistics.  

“That is a very racialized way of saying, ‘Well, it’s always Black people that commit crime,'” she said.

The resolution also calls for removing any funding for a new police station from the village’s 2021 capital improvement plan. It would also commit to amending the section of village code dictating the responsibilities of the Citizen Police Oversight Committee (CPOC) to give to make the committee “truly independent, empowered and transparent.”

The resolution calls on the board of trustees to uphold and enact the ideals laid out in the Oak Park Equity, Inclusion and Diversity statement.

“If that is our moral compass,” Walker-Peddakotla said, “our budget needs to be realigned to fit that moral compass.”

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