The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) recently released their second quarterly report for 2013, reviewing allegations of brutality and misconduct against Chicago police officers. Details in these reports are notably scarce, hidden behind a veil of lies and secrecy that enable the police to be wholly unaccountable to the public they ostensibly serve and protect. The People’s Law Office continues to encourage and promote government transparency and all efforts to make the Chicago police force more accountable to the public, including providing meaningful disciplinary consequences to those officers who beat or abuse people. Victims of police brutality and abuse who courageously come forward must be supported, and civil rights litigation must be employed to advance strategies of justice and social change to improve the conditions for all who live in Chicago.
IPRA’s quarterly report, dated July 15, 2013, provides information regarding investigations spanning from April 1, 2013 – June 30, 2013. The report is available here. During this time, IPRA initiated 558 investigations, up 15% from the previous quarter. Of those cases, 96 involved a Taser discharge, and 13 related to officer-involved shootings. IPRA noted that they will continue to refer mediation to the Fraternal Order of the Police when appropriate, though we must ask: when is it ever appropriate to refer a case of police brutality or misconduct to an organization that in 2008 voted to pay for the criminal defense of a notorious former police commander who tortured confessions from over 200 black men? Altogether, IPRA received 2,122 allegations or notifications of brutality or misconduct: 14 cases involved an “extraordinary occurrence,” 13 cases involved police shootings where someone was injured, 7 cases involved police shootings where no one was hit, 14 cases involved police shooting animals, 96 reported uses of Tasers, and 5 cases reported pepper spray discharge. An extraordinary occurrence is a death or injury to a person while in police custody or other extraordinary or unusual occurrence in a lockup facility.
The breakdown of complaints by district is also revealing, despite the fact that IPRA only provides quantitative figures, and not any depth of analysis or information related to those complaints whatsoever. Districts 2 thru 8 were among the districts with the most complaints filed; notably, they are all African-American neighborhoods throughout the south side. District 11 recorded the most complaints – 154 in a three month period – and is comprised primarily of the Garfield Park neighborhood, another African-American community.
What little qualitative information IPRA is forced to divulge regarding sustained complaints reveals an unscrupulous workplace that would not be tolerated in most other professions. On May 18, 2012, an officer texted another person with whom he was in a previous relationship with, in violation of a Direct Order, and only received a written reprimand. A complaint filed December 28, 2010 was sustained in so far as it found a Chicago police officer used Chicago Police Department resources for personal gain; the officer was suspended for a single day. On January 31, 2011, an officer choked another while intoxicated, and only received a 10-day suspension. On August 10, 2006, two officers purchased a controlled substance, and only received a 10-day suspension. On December 6, 2011 and December 13, 2011, an officer endangered the life/welfare of a child and was subsequently charged and arrested for that crime. He was suspended a single day for his actions. On various dates in 2010 and 2011, an officer left abusive and profane voicemails for two other individuals, and was suspended a single day for this behavior. On June 14, 2008, an officer fired at an unarmed individual, violating the Department’s Use of Deadly Force Policy, and failed to immediately provide notification of his involvement in a weapons discharge; for these actions he was suspended a single day. On December 20, 2008, an officer threw a victim in the snow, struck her, bit her, and verbally abused her; he was suspended for 15 days. For harassing and stalking a victim in the winter of 2008, another officer was given a mere 10-day suspension. On September 15, 2010, an officer issued a false parking ticket, and received a 2-day suspension. On February 2, 2010, an off duty sergeant put a victim in a headlock and brandished a knife, for which he received a 5-day suspension. On May 8, 2008, an officer scratched the face and neck of another officer, and received a 2-day suspension. In October of 2009, an officer violated an Order of Protection multiple times; he received a 3-day suspension. On February 1, 2012, an officer “accidently” discharged a weapon twice, and received a 3-day suspension. On September 6, 2012, two officers got in a physical fight; they each received a 1-day suspension. There were also numerous other complaints IPRA sustained regarding weapons discharged, and failures to make reports of complaints. All of these cases resulted in no worse than a single day suspension. We would implore the reader to contemplate these incidents, and think about the punishment they would receive for much less severe delinquency at their own workplace. It becomes all the more alarming when we remember the power, authority, and heightened responsibility that comes with being a police officer.
It is quite notable that a significant number of these complaints that were found to be “Sustained” involved police officers injuring other officers. This is in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of IPRA complaints are filed by civilians against Chicago police officers who beat them, tased them, falsely arrested them or otherwise violated their civil rights. The Chicago Justice Project has reported that only 5.56% of the complaints filed with IPRA are sustained. It is remarkable that of these 5% of cases, so many of them involved officers injuring one another, rather than Constitutional violations against people of Chicago.
Victims of police shootings, brutality and abuse who courageously come forward must be supported and civil rights litigation must be employed to advance strategies of justice and social change to improve the conditions for all who live in Chicago. The People’s Law Office continues to encourage and promote government transparency and all efforts to make the Chicago police force more accountable to the public they serve and protect, including providing meaningful disciplinary consequences to those officers who shoot, beat or abuse people. When Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority fail to hold police officers accountable, we utilize our skills as civil rights lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of those abused by police. For more information about the types of cases we handle, view our Practice Areas.
This article is part of People’s Law Office’s ongoing analysis of IPRA and police accountability. Read further analysis here.