by Reverend Robert E. Biekman
“A religion true to its nature must…be concerned about man’s social conditions.” ~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In November 2016 at the 134th Annual Membership Assembly of Community Renewal Society, the Northern Illinois Conference Chicago Urban Strategy received the 2016 Partner Award for leadership of the FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability Investigation and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services) Chicago Police Accountability Campaign.
The aim of the campaign is to eliminate excessive use of force by law enforcement and increase transparency/accountability in police by the reporting, practices and procedures. Community Renewal Society is an organization with the mission of seeking racial and economic justice in Chicago, Chicagoland and the state of Illinois.
The ordinance passed in October 2016 by the Chicago City Council creating the Office of Inspector General of Policing and was based upon the FAIR COPS ordinance created by Community Renewal Society and supported by the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Pastor Brittany Isaac (Pastor, Urban Village Church and a campaign leader) shared, “I have a congregant whose collarbone was broken by a police officer and feared reporting it because of retaliation. Now because of the Office of Inspector General of Policing, he has better chance of a fair process.”
Another campaign leader, Reverend Andrea Davidson (Pastor Hartzell Memorial UMC in Bronzeville, Chicago) reflected, “The last couple of years have spotlighted a national crisis…I am proud that the Northern Illinois Annual Conference has supported the FAIR COPS Campaign challenging the city of Chicago to invest in adequate training, greater transparency, effective oversight of policing practices and policies…”
The creation of the Office of Inspector General of Policing is a historic moment in the life of Chicago. Its creation represents countless hours of people of faith and concerned citizens working collaboratively to change the system of policing in Chicago. Its passage represents a systemic change that was demanded for by citizens but originally rejected by those in power. The Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church affirmed this work through passage of the FAIR COPS Resolution at its Annual Conference in June 2016.
United Methodists, across Chicago serving at every level from local congregations to our Bishop Sally Dyck have been at the forefront of this campaign by leading press conferences, manning phone banks, participating in public actions, hosting public meetings/educational forums, disseminating information and meeting with elected officials. We pushed to have language included in the current ordinance that was meaningful to communities that would be most affected by it. The Issue team literally fought until the last hour of the ordinance being passed.
Reverend Dr. Rodney Walker (who was at the time Pastor of Grace Calvary UMC located in Auburn-Gresham, Chicago) wrote, “The NIC Urban Strategy has assisted in providing resources, information and best practices models of ministry to engage congregations in the transformative work of providing opportunities to share our faith and improve the quality of life for ourselves, families, and neighborhoods.”
We will continue to push for a Community Oversight Police Accountability Board that will give the additional reform power and oversight that is needed in Chicago. Reverend Christian Coon (Lead Pastor, Urban Village Church, South Loop, Chicago) added, “Now more than ever, it is vital for communities of faith to be lights in the city. We are being faithful to the call of Jesus when we organize to make sure that the voices of the marginalized (which are too often children) are heard and action is taken so that all can experience abundant life.”
Celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a reminder to us that as NIC Bishop Sally Dyck is fond of saying, “Movement is what happens when we push together!”
The victory we have achieved in the city of Chicago is the result of organizing and pushing together. I urge each of us to not only worship together but work together for the kind of justice that transforms neighborhoods, communities and cities.
FAIR COPS Timeline
August 2014– Strategy Team met and responded to Mike Brown’s murder and the abuse of a Force leader by CPD by voting to address the issue of police accountability. An exploratory issue team was formed.
October 2014– CRS membership voted to adopt the issue onto our platform along with the issue teams multi-layered campaign.
January 2015– A mayoral forum was convened and the top candidates attended and endorsed our platform except Mayor Emanuel.
Ash Wednesday 2015– Met with Mayor Emanuel asking him to repent the African American community. Congregations were meeting with Alderman during this time as well
Fall 2015 – Met with Mayor Emanuel and he told us that “There is not a systemic problem within CPD, there’s simply a case of a few bad apples.” He rejected all of our proposals
December 2015 – Dec. 1st – Public action – “The blood is on the mayor’s hands”. The Laquan McDonald video was released. We narrowed down our police accountability platform to the creation of the auditor’s office. Met with the Mayor again and he rejected FAIR COPS.
March 2016– Met with the Mayor and he rejected FAIR COPS again.
Palm Sunday 2016– Palm Sunday shutdown. We shut down police districts across the city through peaceful demonstrations.
April 2016– Alderman Jason Ervin introduced FAIR COPS.
June 2016 – Northern Illinois Conference AC passes resolution
Summer 2016– Met with Alderman and the Mayor staff to negotiate FAIR COPS. We also partnered with other organizations to strengthen our power. Congregations hosted town halls to educate the community of FAIR COPS and of the oversight system.
September 2016– The auditor’s office was accepted, but major elements of FAIR COPS ordinance were not included. Mayor Emanuel also led a process to introduce his ordinance that was not community friendly.
October 2016– The auditor’s office was created that included the a lot of the language that we fought to have included.
CRS United Methodist Member Congregations
Grace Calvary UMC, Granville UMC, Humboldt Park UMC, Maple Park UMC, St. Mark UMC, St. Matthew UMC, Transformation Community UMC, and Urban Village.