Chicago aldermen on Thursday advanced a plan to change the city’s disorderly conduct ordinance in a way they argued could help police disperse crowds at gang funerals as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s get-tough stance on the gatherings.
The new provision would allow “public safety officials to address a situation that threatens the public health, safety or welfare,” and Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, asked city attorneys how that squares with Emanuel’s pledge to treat gang funerals like “a gang event.”
“Under the right circumstances, I think it could apply,” replied Jeff Levine of the city's Law Department during a City Council Public Safety Committee hearing on the disorderly conduct statute.
Emanuel said this week that police would start cracking down on behavior at gang funerals in response to the fatal shooting of a man outside a service for a slain reputed gang member late last month in the Park Manor neighborhood.
“If you cannot respect a place of worship at the time of a funeral, therefore we're not going to show — we're going to show a different attitude,” Emanuel said Wednesday. “And that is, the police are going to treat gang funerals as a gang event. And people will be appropriately checked, patted down.”
But after Thursday’s council hearing, Benna Ruth Solomon, a city attorney, said the intent of the new part of the statute was to give police, firefighters and paramedics the power to move crowds in order to get to fires or people in need of emergency medical treatment.
“We don’t regard it as new authority, but we think giving it clarity and giving it defined limits is useful because that is an objection that is frequently raised against disorderly conduct provisions,” Solomon said.
Asked specifically whether the police will have more power to disperse crowds at gang funerals if the City Council adopts the provision, Solomon said the clause does not create new powers for officers.
“We do believe CPD and other public safety officials always have the inherent authority to act on behalf of public health, safety concern – act in the presence, the face of public health, safety concerns,” she said.
The Law Department added the new wording to the disorderly conduct statute while removing provisions that allowed people to be charged for failing to disperse if their actions were causing “serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.” A judge ruled that language too broad.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun