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Chicago Should Annually Disclose Police Officers Named in a High Number of Complaints

December 2014

I. Recommendation.

Consistent with the March 2014 ruling of the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court in Kalven v. City of Chicago,[1] Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago City Council should require the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) to issue an annual report disclosing those officers named in a high number of complaints filed with the Independent Police Review Authority, IPRA, or otherwise investigated by IPRA.[2] The report covering one calendar year should be issued by February 1 of the next year.

The Kalven decision holds that neitherrecords of completed investigations against Chicago police officers, nor previously created lists of police officers named in a high number of complaints, are necessarily exempt from disclosure under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. A settlement agreement was later entered in the case. It provides that the lists of police officers named in a high number of complaints will be produced. It also provides that records of completed investigations may be disclosed, but may have the names of the complainant and witnesses deleted.

The following types of complaints should not be considered: 1) complaints against an officer by another member of the CPD alleging personnel or operational violations; 2) complaints on which IPRA, after investigation,  has issued a finding of “unfounded” or “exonerated.” [3]

Moreover, the Chicago Council of Lawyers proposes that the only officers listed be top one percent of officers, who receive the most complaints. Limiting the reports to the top 1% of officers means that the number of complaints against each of them would be abnormally high. The City should report as to each covered complaint whether an investigation is pending, and if completed, the finding entered (sustained, not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated). If an investigation was closed without a finding, that should be stated, and why.

The Chicago Police Department should use the list of officers who have a high number of complaints as a managerial tool to identify officers who need further training or counseling, or who deserve discipline before they engage in further conduct that may lead to a lawsuit that will cost the City funds that would be better spent for another purpose. That list should be made public so the public can monitor the City’s progress in reducing the frequency of police misconduct.

II.  Why the Council Recommendation is needed

In 2012, the Chicago Reporter published an article by Angela Caputo finding that 140 Chicago police officers  (about 1% of the entire force) accounted for more than a quarter of the $45.5 million in damages paid by the City in 441 police misconduct lawsuits from January 2009 through November 2011. Seventy five per cent of the 441 police misconduct suits alleged excessive force or false arrest.

These 140 officers had been named in at least two lawsuits, and nearly one third of them were named in at least 5 misconduct suits since 2000.  Caputo also reported that 80% of the 140 officers remained on the job. In fact, 26 of 42 officers named in five or more cases were still on the Police Department’s payroll. Caputo reported that the Chicago Police Board disciplined only two of the 140 high-volume officers. One of the officers remaining on the job was Glen Evans. Caputo reported that in 2009 Chicago settled two suits alleging misconduct by Evans for $118,999.

The Chicago Tribune on August 28, 29 and September 9, 10, 2014, reported that since 2001 Evans has been the subject of at least 50 complaints. During that period, he was promoted to lieutenant and then to district commander. He was also named in a number of lawsuits alleging police misconduct, seven of which were settled for $226,250. The Tribune also reported that in April, 2014 IPRA recommended that Police Superintendent McCarthy remove Evans from his commander’s post and strip him of his police powers pending further investigation because DNA evidence had corroborated a man’s complaint that Evans had shoved a gun down the man’s throat while arresting him.  But McCarthy did not then follow through on the recommendation. It was not until hours before criminal charges were filed against Evans on August 27, 2014 that McCarthy put Evans on desk duty, the Tribune reported.

  1. Responses to objections publicizing the names of officers.

It has been argued that the CPD should not publicly identify police officers named in complaints under investigation. It has also been argued that officers against whom IPRA has entered  “sustained” findings should not be made public because the CPD can monitor those officers without naming them publicly. Here are our responses to those arguments.

*          The Kalven decision ruled that the names of officers named in a high number of complaints are not exempt from disclosure under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.[4]  Plaintiff in that case has now made public the names of those officers, and there has been no report that their safety or welfare has been put at risk as a result.

*          We have excluded several types of complaints from consideration in the calculation of the number of complaints against an officer. (See paragraph 3 of Section I.) We have also limited our proposal to the top 1% of police officers. Finally, we urge annual reporting, not more frequently.

*          Too many officers against whom a high number of complaints were filed were not adequately disciplined. (See Section III above.)

*          The CPD may publish more information to give the complaints more context. For instance, if the officers who make the most arrests are named in a high number of complaints, the City could disclose the average rate of complaints per arrest for all officers, and the rate for each named officer. It could also disclose the number of complaints against each listed officer that are not based on an affidavit.[5]  And it could identify those complaints that were determined to be “unfounded” or “exonerated.”

If in the future the City Council believes that the amount of money the City pays out in response to lawsuits alleging police misconduct is under control, or that the Police Department has demonstrated that it adequately disciplines officers who engage in misconduct, it can revisit the requirement of publishing the names of those few officers named in the highest number of complaints.

IV.       Conclusion

The Kalven decision is an opportunity for the City to monitor closely the performance of police officers named in an abnormally high number of complaints of misconduct and to allow the public to monitor the City to ensure that it takes prompt and appropriate disciplinary action against officers who harm the residents of Chicago and damage the reputation of the rest of the police officers.

 

If you have questions about this policy recommendation issued by the Chicago Council of Lawyers, please contact Gordon Waldron at (708) 400-1915 or contact the Council at ccl@chicagocouncil.org.

 

 

 

[1]  Kalven v. City of Chicago, 2014 IL App (1st) 121846.

[2] The ordinance establishing IPRA authorizes it to investigate specified types of complaints. IPRA refers the rest of the complaints to the CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs (“BIA”), which investigates some and refers others to CPD supervisors to investigate. The types of complaints include those alleging excessive force, verbal abuse, coercion, improper search, improper arrest, criminal misconduct, conduct unbecoming an officer, domestic violence, bribery, and official corruption. Also included should be the following incidents, which IPRA automatically investigates:  an officer’s discharge of a firearm, an officer’s discharge of a Taser, death or injury to a person in an officer’s custody, and an officer’s use of improper lock-up procedures.

[3]  “Unfounded” means that the allegation is false or not factual.  “Exonerated” means that  the incident occurred, but the actions of the accused were lawful and proper.

In 2013, IPRA entered findings on 1186 complaints. It entered “unfounded” findings on 28.7 % of them, and entered “exonerated” findings on less than  one percent of them.  BIA  does not publicize the percentage of complaints it found “sustained,” “unsustained,”  “unfounded,”  or “exonerated.” Nor does it publicize how many complaintsit investigates and how many it refers to CPD supervisors to investigate.

[4]   See also Judge Lefkow’s opinion in an earlier suit on the issue:

The fact that the allegations of police misconduct contained in the requested materials would bring unwanted, negative attention on defendants is not a basis for shielding the materials from public disclosure. The public has a significant interest in monitoring the conduct of its police officers and a right to know how allegations of misconduct are being investigated and handled. Bond v. Utreras, 2007 WL 2003085 at *3 (N.D.Ill 2007).

[5] Illinois law (50 ILCS 725/3.8) requires that anyone filing a complaint against a sworn peace officer must have the complaint supported by a sworn affidavit.

 

 

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