Hairston, Aug. 24

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), Aug. 24

The City Council did not vote on Ald. Leslie Hairston's (5th) ordinance to give people a list of all free legal service providers within an hour of their arrest, but she has said in interviews that legal complications are being worked out and that she still expects a timely vote.

"I spoke with corporation counsel last week; he's talking to the public defender. I put a call in yesterday," she said after the council's Sept. 9 meeting. "I'm expecting to hear something back. I told them I planned to move this swiftly."

And if the ordinance does not move?

"If it looks like it is stalling, I will not hesitate to get some some of my colleagues, and we'll do another special meeting," she answered. "We are going to move this."

Alongside three other aldermen, Hairston forced a City Council meeting last month to, among other things, vote on a resolution to ask Gov. J.B. Pritzker to send the Illinois National Guard after a second, smaller round of downtown looting earlier in August. 

Hairston did not support bringing the state's troops into the city, but the move revived her moribund ordinance, which she introduced in 2019. Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) are co-sponsors, and the Public Safety Committee held a hearing on it on Aug. 24.

Aldermen can force special City Council meetings under Illinois law, but the council can conduct business only if a 26-member quorum shows up.

In an interview, Austin Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), a former policeman, said the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs, may vote on Hairston's ordinance in September so that the council can vote on it in October.

"I think many of us believe in and support the ordinance but understand that there are, for lack of a better word, 'kinks' that need to be worked out," he said.

He hopes work among Hairston, the Chicago Police Department and the city's Law Department can work out the details and establish a "standard of reasonableness."

"We need to determine what is a reasonable and adequate amount of time to ensure that a person who has been arrested is provided that information, certainly because I believe that if we do have a time frame there that is considered unreasonable, we are looking at the possibility of the city being liable and having to pay out," he said.

Hairston, Taliaferro and the police have all have said that there are certain instances in which the police are not able to give arrested people a list of free legal resources within one hour.

Specifically, Taliaferro listed instances of mass arrest, when arrestees require serious medical condition and arrestees who are combative to the degree that they are at risk to their own body or others.

But in addition to the reasonableness standard, Taliaferro said it is important "to put the police on notice that (they) have a certain amount of time to provide this information to many arrestees.

"I think this solution can definitely be found." 

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