Remarks delivered by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb during the village board Meeting, Aug. 25:

‘Defunding the police” seems to have a whole range of answers depending on who you ask. For some it may mean relocation and reshuffling of our resources and for others it may mean getting rid of the entire policing system in our community. 

To those who suffered emotionally and or physically due to police brutality or conduct, I am sorry. I understand struggle because of my life experience and where I grew up. I understand why you would be calling to defund the police. But defunding the police, partly or entirely, will not remedy your concerns and will not resolve the challenges in front of us. 

Reforming our police department — holding the police officers accountable the same way as the general public, having a public database of police officers’ conduct, working to convince the unions that in the long run, the discipline, the promotion, reward, reprimand and accountability of a police officer — belongs to the local municipality, belongs to the chief and management. 

And that is why I do not support this concept and request of defunding the police. But I am committed to making the changes that need to be made, so everyone in our community feels welcomed and belonging in our village. I am committed to reforming what should be reformed, and we have started that process. I signed the Obama pledge to examine our policies, use of force, engage the community, and adopt the recommendation. We have consensus on this board to have an independent third party to audit our policies and processes, and this work has started. 

The approach of the resolution before us tonight is like that of a homeowner tackling modest repairs with a sledgehammer and power saw. Police are needed; social services are needed. Reform is a must. But before we change the policing system, let’s define what needs to change, and let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The pandemic, the call for social justice, and this economic recession create an opportunity for us to come together and re-think many things. And I am committed to that. 

When people elect us and entrust us with this awesome responsibility, we must rise to the occasion and must do what is responsible. And I view public safety as our number one responsibility. 

It is essential that we provide our staff and first responders with a positive environment, support, and certainty. But our support is not unconditional, our support must come with accountability. And we cannot forget that the reason we as a government exist is to serve the people and to make everyone in our village feel they belong here, that they are welcomed, respected, and treated with dignity. 

Anan Abu-Taleb is the mayor of the village of Oak Park.

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