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Los Angeles lawyer to police Chicago's police

Mayor Daley chooses Ilana Rosenzweig to head the troubled Office of Professional Standards.

July 20, 2007|Gary Washburn and David Heinzmann | Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Moving to counter an image of out-of-control cops, Mayor Richard M. Daley won passage Thursday of an ordinance overhauling the troubled police Office of Professional Standards and then named a Los Angeles lawyer to run it.

The City Council pushed to strengthen the measure beyond Daley's original proposal and approved it by a vote of 48-0.

Critics for years have contended that the Office of Professional Standards has failed to root out officers guilty of brutality and other abuses, but pressure mounted on Daley to act after two videotapes of off-duty officers beating civilians became public this year.

The mayor announced overhauls in May and acknowledged that the Office of Professional Standards was perceived as failing to solve the problem of renegade officers.

"Some people don't think we need this kind of reform; others believe we haven't gone far enough," Daley said after the council's vote. "To everyone, I say we need to take this step and give it time to work."

The changes include putting the mayor in direct control of the agency and giving investigators subpoena power. For the first time, summaries of the agency's findings will be made public.

Daley's choice to run the agency is attorney Ilana B.R. Rosenzweig, 38, of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, a civilian oversight group that monitors the county Sheriff's Department and investigations of alleged misconduct.

"I am committed to bringing innovative ideas to the table and moving this new office forward so that we can ensure that every Chicagoan has confidence in both the conduct of officers as well as the investigation process," said Rosenzweig, who appeared with Daley at a City Hall news conference. Cities nationwide are dealing with issues of police misconduct, she said, "and Chicago is implementing a new model that holds a lot of promise."

Daley usually favors homegrown talent for big jobs, but he said he selected Rosenzweig over two unnamed finalists from Chicago because of her expertise and experience.

Andre Grant, a member of the search committee and an attorney who has sued the city in police abuse cases, praised her.

"The most impressive thing is that she has done this before," Grant said. "She is sincere, she is honest, she is intelligent, she is aggressive."

Rosenzweig's former boss, who introduced her to police oversight work in Los Angeles County, called her an "incredibly bright and scrupulously fair" attorney who has acted as second-in-command.

Rosenzweig should do well, even in the high politicized environment she'll be entering, said Merrick Bobb, an L.A. County-appointed monitor who helped create the Office of Independent Review. Bobb, a nationally recognized expert, also is executive director of the Police Accountability Research Center in L.A.

"Ilana is independent and confident," he said. "Although she will listen to everyone and take all views into account, she is not the kind of person who wilts under pressure."

Rosenzweig is to take over the job as a new cloud hangs over the Office of Professional Standards. A list of complaints against officers over the last five years that became public this week shows that in one unit, a total of 408 allegations were lodged against 10 officers -- of which the office sustained three. One resulted in a 15-day suspension, the other two in reprimands.

Critics immediately contended that Daley's changes were little more than window dressing.

"This is Feel-Good Day for the mayor and the City Council members, but I have real misgivings about whether, at bottom, there's any substantive change," said Locke E. Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Law School.

The new ordinance "runs the real risk of making things worse by creating the illusion that we've solved the problem, thereby exacerbating the city's institutional denial and the impunity of those abusive officers," said Craig B. Futterman, a University of Chicago Law School professor, who obtained Office of Professional Standards records that Daley is fighting in federal court to keep secret.

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