Police Settlement Transparency and Accountability (PSTA) Ordinance

File:LAQUAN McDonald Chicago memorial from protestors.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The PSTA (Police Settlement Transparency and Accountability) Ordinance will lift the veil of secrecy from police misconduct litigation in Chicago. With the PSTA, we have a chance to bring transparency, democratic oversight, and justice to the city’s police accountability system. If we pass this reform, Chicago will set the standard for police accountability for cities across the country. Chicago communities deserve nothing less.

Why do we need the PSTA Ordinance?

When 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times in the back by Chicago police officers, the city paid McDonald’s mother a settlement of $5 million. When this amount of public money is spent to atone for the wrongdoings committed by police, the public deserves to have access to the spending decisions. 

The current law prevents transparency in settlement decision-making During the Rahm Emanuel administration, for instance, there have been stories of off-record briefings between the mayor’s office and aldermen regarding misconduct litigation, where aldermen were not even allowed to take notes.

This ordinance is aimed at making sure that the City Council never repeats the approval of large payouts without having the information they need to do their job.

What’s in the PSTA Ordinance?

    • Informed decision making: All aldermen will be entitled to hear all the facts of a police misconduct case before the city council can vote to approve a settlement. No longer will the council be allowed to spend public money without coming to an informed decision. 

    • Public responsiveness: The Public Safety Committee will be required to hold a public meeting every month in which a court-ordered judgment or council-approved settlement occurs. During these meetings, the only agenda items can be these judgments and settlements. Leaders of the Chicago Police Department, Law Department, Citizen Office of Police Accountability, Chicago Police Board, and Office of the Inspector General will be required to answer questions from aldermen about their response to the alleged misconduct. 

    • Harm prevention: The public safety community will be required to hold remedy meetings twice a year, focused solely on ensuring the Chicago Police Department and police accountability system are doing everything possible to eliminate the behavior that caused the litigation. Not only will this limit the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, but it will also make sure that those with a history of causing harm to communities won’t have an opportunity to do so again.

    • Transparency: The city will be required to make public the amount of money they spent to pay the settlements and judgments, and to defend misconduct cases in court. The city will have to provide detailed information about which firms and lawyers are being retained in every case and how much they are being paid for their services.

These are just the highlights. The full ordinance contains more powerful accountability measures. Read the full ordinance here: PSTA_2

Transparency is non-partisan

Our ordinance will benefit anyone who thinks that the police accountability process is closed off, from those who think the city should fight lawsuits more vigorously to those who believe that Chicago is spending too much on litigation. Information transparency is crucial to expose structural problems and fight narratives built on misinformation or secrecy.

Transparency provides information for all sides to use to support their efforts to engage in the democratic process. We hope this ordinance is seen as the non-partisan legislation it aims to be.

Who is responsible for drafting this ordinance?

This ordinance was drafted by the Chicago Justice Project with significant input by Samuel Walker, police accountability scholar and Emeritus Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, in addition to three national police accountability experts and members of the civil rights bar in Chicago.

Sign on as a supporter!

Want to add yourself or your organization as a supporter of the PSTA Ordinance? Fill out the petition below and we will add you to the growing list of people and organizations that are behind this groundbreaking transparency effort.



The people of Chicago deserve transparent and responsive police accountability systems. By signing this petition, you can pressure the city council to make more responsible decisions with taxpayer dollars.

Support Chicago Police Settlement Transparency


Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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