Police Union Calls Investigators Unqualified

CHICAGO (CN) – A union lawsuit shows that even Chicago police officers are going after the Independent Police Review Authority, an arm of the city in charge of investigating misconduct that has been criticized as far from independent.

The union for rank-and-file officers – the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 – sued the city Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking an injunction to ensure the city’s compliance with the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act and the Illinois Police Training Act.

The review board, also called IPRA, was designated by the city to investigate police officer-involved shootings and other complaints against the Chicago Police Department. It will be replaced by a new agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, in 2017.

Every officer-involved death investigation has two investigators, one of them the lead. The police union says the two state laws require IPRA lead investigators to be certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board or to have similar training from a board-approved school.

But that training hasn’t happened, according to the lawsuit, and “IPRA has assigned investigators who are not qualified to be ‘lead investigators’ under PCRIA and IPTA to investigate all officer involved death investigations in the City of Chicago and will continue to do so.”

The FOP also says in its complaint that investigators are not supposed to be employed by the same law enforcement agency as the officer being investigated.

“Neither the Department of Police, IPRA or COPA are legally distinct from the city,” the lawsuit states.

The IPRA, although touted as an agency independent of CPD, has been criticized by others as being an organization filled with retired police who steer shooting investigations in favor of officers.

As of last year, the IPRA had investigated almost 400 police shootings since its inception in 2007 and found only one to be unjustified, according to a report from government watchdog group the Better Government Association.

A former IPRA investigator, Lorenzo Davis, says he was fired because he refused to change his reports on police shootings so they would appear to be justified. He currently has a lawsuit pending in Cook County Circuit Court against the IPRA and former head Scott Ando.

Ando, appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2014, resigned in April after the U.S. Department of Justice announced its investigation into the practices of the police department.

The past year was filled with tension between the CPD and Chicago residents, especially black citizens.

Several incidents in 2015 received national attention, including the release of a police dashcam video showing the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan MacDonald just before Thanksgiving, along with the deaths of college student Quintonio Legrier and his neighbor Bettie Jones the morning after Christmas.

CPD tends to be tightfisted with its information. The latest official report available from the department is for 2010. However, data obtained from CPD by the Chicago Tribune shows that police officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 in 435 shooting incidents from 2010 to 2015. About four out of every five shootings involved black citizens.

The Tribune sued CPD earlier this month to get more records about the McDonald shooting.

Neither the city of Chicago nor the IPRA responded Friday to a request for comment on the police union’s lawsuit.

The union wants the court to find that the city is not in compliance with state law. It is represented by Pasquale A. Fioretto of Baum Sigman in Chicago.