On Tuesday, May 2, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson joined other elected officials, organizers, and friends and family of the city’s first-ever elected Police District Councilors for a swearing-in ceremony at Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville. Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans administered the new councilors’ oath of office.

The vibe in the center’s auditorium was festive. As emcee Chasda Martin, the chief strategy officer of the North Lawndale Employment Network, welcomed each councilor to the stage, family members in the audience broke out in cheers, giving the ceremony the air of a graduation. And for many of the councilors, nearly all of whom had run for public office for the very first time, the festivities were a kind of matriculation—from community organizers and activists to elected public officials.

In the February 2023 election, voters selected three-member Police District Councils (PDCs) for each of the city’s 22 police districts. The members of each council are organized into a chairperson, a community engagement coordinator and a member of the citywide committee that nominates Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) members. The PDCs hold monthly meetings and are tasked with interacting with police commanders, and developing and implementing community policing initiatives.

The councils, as well as the citywide CCPSA, were created after years of organizing by activists in the wake of police killings of civilians such as Rekia Boyd in 2012, and Ronald “RonnieMan” Johnson and Laquan McDonald in 2014. The Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), along with abolitionist organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100 and LetUsBreathe Collective, organized for years before organizers formed the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) coalition in 2021. That same year, the coalition’s allies in the City Council passed the ECPS ordinance, which created the PDCs. 

Frank Chapman, the executive director for CAARPR’s national organization, said the day was “a demonstration of what happens when you have the democratic option to say who polices our communities and how our communities our policed.” 

Police accountability and its role in public safety is not “some vague idea” in the Black community, he added. “It’s not an academic exercise, this is a reality: we need community control of the police. We don’t have that yet,” but the PDC inauguration is “a very significant and historical step in the direction of achieving that.”

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans administers the oath of office to the police distirct councilors. | Photo by ANF Chicago for The TRiiBE ®
Photo by ANF Chicago for The TRiiBE®

In the auditorium, outgoing 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, the lead sponsor of the ECPS ordinance, told The TRiiBE the councilors’ inauguration was the culmination of years of work. Sawyer, who just ran for mayor and is retiring from City Council in two weeks, called seeing the PDCs come to fruition a “parting gift.” 

“It’s wonderful to see the first class being sworn in,” he said. “And now the work begins. I want to make sure that the work gets done and that we really have a vehicle where we have true collaboration between the community and the police, making sure that we can get cooperation and ultimately crime rates down.” 

Incoming 5th Ward Ald. Desmon Yancy, who co-founded GAPA and the ECPS coalition, said he is “excited about the promise” the PDCs hold. 

“This is what we set out to do,” he told The TRiiBE. “And to be in this room with 66 new elected officials who are charged with reshaping our public safety system is a moment that I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get to, but I’m grateful to be here.”

The CCPSA is currently engaged in a search for a new Chicago Police Department (CPD) superintendent. On May 3, Mayor-elect Johnson announced former Chief of Patrol Fred Waller will be appointed interim superintendent on May 15. The ECPS ordinance empowers the commission to recommend candidates to the mayor, who will make the final selection. CCPSA President Anthony Driver told The TRiiBE that the ceremony was the culmination of a 50-year struggle. 

“I’m feeling great,” he said. “I think there’s a new day in the city of Chicago. I’m excited to see what we all can accomplish together.” CCPSA commissioner Beth Brown added that the swearing in of more than 60 councilors “feels like our team just expanded by so many degrees.” 

Following speeches by Driver, 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, the Mayor’s Office’s First Deputy for Public Safety Jessica Gall-Adedira and others, 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, a cosponsor of the ECPS ordinance, introduced Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson to a standing ovation.

“So much work has brought the city of Chicago together,” Johnson said. “And there has been no better form of organizing than what is on display on this stage, and these miraculous individuals who have made history to unite our city around values that we were raised on.”

The PDCs represent “the type of leadership that is needed at the very local level to make sure that public safety is a broader conversation than what we have been having for too long in this country—a short-sighted conversation about how we bring real public safety to the people into the communities of this city,” Johnson continued. “And now we have a governing body that speaks to the very best of our values, that democracy, particularly in a place like Chicago can not only prevail, but it can lead us towards a more just equitable society.”


Johnson talked about growing up as one of nine siblings in a family that held one another accountable with love and compassion. “Accountability, in my home, we looked each other in the eye, we said, ‘what do you need?’” he said. “Because they understood that all of us had a collective responsibility. That’s what we’re bringing to the city of Chicago, that we are here to ask one another ‘what do you need?’ Because when we succeed, everyone in the city of Chicago succeeds.”

After the ceremony, 17th District councilor Anthony Michael Tamez and 25th District councilor Saul Arellano, two of the youngest candidates elected to PDCs, were ecstatic. Tamez, who is a member of Chi-Nations Youth Council and the only First Nations person to be elected to a PDC, was decked out in a light blue suit and Chicago star-themed beadwork jewelry. 

“I’m really excited to bring some Indigenous practices into public safety and to work with my district councilors,” he told The TRiiBE. “So, bringing restorative justice and how that is done in Native communities and how policing is done in Native communities. We’ve kept each other safe for hundreds of thousands of years. And I’m excited to be at the forefront to bring that back to the city of Chicago.”

Arellano, who will fill the community engagement coordinator role in the 25th District PDC, said that he’s also ready to get to work, beginning with a listening tour of all 22 districts with other councilors. 

“We’re going to go to every single district, meet with different organizations, and make sure we talk to them and see what it is that they want to see from us, and as well, how can we help,” he told The TRiiBE. “And so that is really our mission: how can we be of support?”

Alana Mullins’s sister, Angelica Green, was elected to the 25th District PDC. “I’m so proud of her,” Mullins told The TRiiBE. “When she went in, she was just going in, and she didn’t calm it down. And then once the race started really getting into it, she was getting pumped. And we was right there. So I’m just so happy. The whole family supported her.”

Arewa Karen Winters, newly sworn in as a councilor in the 15th District PDC, became active in the movement for police accountability after a Chicago police officer shot and killed her 16-year-old great-nephew in 2016. 

“I am by no means taking this new endeavor lightly at all,” Winters told The TRiiBE. “So, the wheels are turning as to what this work is really going to look like for us, especially in communities like Austin, where I live, that are impacted greatly by police misconduct and abuses.”

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson delivered remarks at the PDC inauguration. | Photo by ANF Chicago for The TRiiBE ®

Winters added that the police in the 15th District already do community engagement, which could make the PDCs work more palatable to the community. She added that morale is low in CPD, and that officers should view the PDCs as help on the way.

“Even though I lost someone to police violence, I’m not one of those that feel all police are bad, or, you know, there are things that I don’t agree with in policing,” she said. “I just believe that if we truly work together, we could begin to diffuse a lot of what’s happening, and public safety can be that where we can all experience public and private safety.” 

Noting that the city will soon have not only brand-new PDCs but also a new mayor and police superintendent, as well as the ongoing consent decree, Winters said there’s “really good synergy going on in Chicago right now.”

“I’m looking forward to this work,” she said.

is the digital news editor for The TRiiBE.