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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.

 

 

Published on December 2, 2014 on the Collaboration for Justice Blog

By:  Elizabeth Monkus

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that Cook County Criminal Court Judge Gloria Chevere was re-assigned to a non-trial civil administration call, following a report that she was wrongly jailing defendants for contempt. The re-assignment order for Judge Chevere also assigns the Judge to a peer mentoring program within the court.

Judge Chevere last ran for retention in  2012, where she retained her seat, although a mere 40% of voters casting ballots chose to vote on the question of her retention. Nearly all of the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations, including the Chicago Council of Lawyers, found her not recommended for retention in 2012, as did the Chicago Bar Association. The Pilot Project of the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County issued an evaluation for Judge Chevere. The Chicago Council of Lawyers, in finding Judge Chevere unqualified for retention, largely adopted the written evaluation prepared by the Judicial Performance Commission.

Although our investigation found that most attorneys believed they were treated fairly in her courtroom and that she runs her courtroom efficiently, a significant number of respondents reported that Judge Chevere could be “dismissive and rude” on the bench. Half of the respondents believe she has not read pleadings sufficiently before ruling. She has the reputation of unilaterally cancelling her 2:30 pm call, saying that it is not necessary. Our 2012 report stated that several respondents believed the judge unnecessarily issued arrests warrants for defendants who are late to court.

The evaluation concluded that Judge Chevere was reported to be having significant difficulties in the areas of diligence and temperament that seriously impeded her effectiveness as a jurist. The Commission recommended a performance improvement plan which included: court-watching, peer mentoring and re-evaluation within three years.

Now is the time for Cook County to reconsider how it monitors the performance of judges in the courtroom and to identify better systems to be used when selecting and retaining judges.

Essential Components for Bond Court Reform


A Policy Statement from the Collaboration for Justice of

Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers

 

This Policy Statement was published as a Letter to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on October 29, 2014. 

 

By Ali Abid, Staff Attorney, and Malcolm Rich, Executive Director, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice

 

On the night of July 24th, before a crowd of 300 at New Landmark Church on Chicago’s West Side, Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced that he would release a plan to reform Bond Court and the Pre-Trial Services Department by the end of October. Chicago Appleseed served as a consultant to the Community Renewal Society and helped facilitate the discussions that led to the announcement.

 

Cook County’s Central Bond Court has been broken for years. Past efforts at systemic reform have delivered too little. Bond hearings still last roughly just 30 seconds per defendant; judges still impose cash bonds more frequently, and at higher amounts, than other large urban jurisdictions around the country. About 70 percent of Cook County Jail’s pretrial detainees are accused of committing nonviolent crimes.

 

And despite the urgency with which further change is needed, the prospects of stakeholders working further to accomplish more seemed poor.

 

Then, in 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court intervened, and created a commission headed by retired Illinois Chief Justice Ben K. Miller and retired U.S. District Court Judge David H. Coar to facilitate a path to reform. In March 2014 the commission issued the Circuit Court of Cook County Pretrial Operational Review, a comprehensive report authored by the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts and the National Center for State Courts. The report identified, in painstaking detail, the shortcomings of the current system, along with 40 specific recommendations for reform. More recently, the commission has taken the stakeholders to Montgomery County, Maryland and Washington D.C. to learn from pretrial systems more in line with best practices.

 

At an October 21 County Board budget meeting, Chief Judge Evans mentioned a few features that will be in his plan: pushing back the start of the call to allow for more thorough preparation, longer bond hearings, specific recommendations to the court by pretrial services officers on bond amounts and release conditions, and requiring additional on-the-record findings from judges explaining the basis for the bonds they set.

 

We eagerly await Chief Judge Evans’s full plan. We expect and hope that it has been informed by all of the county’s criminal justice stakeholders, since all the major areas of the Supreme Court’s recommendations require the concerted action of all agencies. For any plan to succeed, coordination and shared buy-in is essential.

 

Additionally, we believe that a meaningful Bond Court reform plan must include four essential components:

 

1. Better Training of All Bond Court Personnel

 

The Pretrial Operational Review report identified a lack of pretrial-specific training and cross-training for Bond Court personnel. This has created an array of problems. For instance, the report found that judges, probation officers, and other Bond Court personnel lacked a general understanding of the Pretrial Services Department’s function and responsibilities. An alarming number of Bond Court personnel members – including judges – were found to possess an inadequate understanding of the alternative types of electronic monitoring options. For Bond Court to operate fairly and effectively, all personnel need to know the intricacies of their jobs, as well as an understanding how they fit into the larger process of the bond call.

 

2. Modernized Information Sharing Between Stakeholders in Bond Court

 

The Pretrial Operational Review report noted an absence of coordinated electronic exchange of information between the Sheriff, Pretrial Services, the State’s Attorney, the Public Defender, and the Circuit Clerk. It also reported a difficulty in coordinating and communicating between the Bond Court (which is part of the First Municipal Division) and the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

 

Lack of information sharing and antiquated technology hinder the day-to-day functioning of the pretrial services department. Pretrial officers are unable to conduct meaningful interviews or see background information about any of the detainees until that information physically arrives in the form of an “arrest packet” along with the detainees. The information contained in this paper arrest packet, which is created by the Chicago Police Department, is often the only verified information for pretrial services interviews.

 

It should be noted that the State’s Attorney’s Office has recently taken the commendable step of sharing defendants’ criminal history reports with the public defenders before the start of the bond call. This new policy, while currently experiencing some logistical difficulties in implementing, is a welcome development.

 

3. Implementing Accurate, Standardized Data Collection Processes

 

The Pretrial Operational Review report found substantial problems with data collection among the stakeholders. Even during its own investigation, the review team discovered that the statistical reports they received were cumbersome and inconsistent because of: (1) antiquated technology; (2) the stakeholders’ own unfamiliarity about the scope of data being collected; (3) an absence of a coordinated data-sharing process; and (4) cumbersome, unclear data request protocols. The review team described the troubling experience of receiving reports from different agencies, purportedly recording the same data, that nevertheless reported different numbers.

One proposal may be that stakeholders collectively turn over their data to a neutral third party – perhaps an academic institution – for compilation and dissemination. One such existing collaboration, between the Sheriff’s Department and Loyola University Professor David Olsen, has produced one of the most trusted sources of information on the county’s criminal justice system.

 

4. Risk Assessments That Use Reliable Tools and Reliable Methods

 

Pretrial service officers currently use a risk assessment instrument, designed in questionnaire form, to provide judges with information relevant to a defendant’s flight risk and risk to public safety. While use of such tools can be a good practice, the instrument that pretrial service officers use in Bond Court has not been scientifically validated. The current instrument also does not allow for specific recommendations by pretrial officers, which is the opposite of what the Pretrial Operational Review report recommended. And since the information being used to score the instrument is unverified and often incomplete, the instrument’s risk score provides little value. If risk assessment instruments are to continue to be used, the court must require that such tools are validated and incorporate both risk-enhancing and mitigating factors in an empirically meaningful fashion.

 

The time is right for large-scale improvements to Bond Court. Chief Judge Evans and President Preckwinkle, with the guidance of the Illinois Supreme Court, seem ready to take collaborative action that will make our criminal justice system more fair, efficient, and effective. The people of Cook County deserve no less.

 

 

 

Judicial Election Results for the November 4, 2014 General Election

 

All judges running for retention in Cook County were retained.

 

There were two contested elections.  In the Fourth Subcircuit, John J. Mahoney won the election to fill the Billik Vacancy.  In the Twelfth Subcircuit, James Pieczonka won the election to fill the Jordan Vacancy.

For the November 4, 2014 General Election, the Chicago Council of Lawyers evaluated the judges seeking retention and the candidates seeking to become judges. For an evaluation report, please CLICK HERE. For a Ballot Summary of the contested and retention judicial races, please CLICK HERE. Please note:  Voters will find at the top of the judicial ballot a series of races to fill judicial vacancies.  In most of these races, the candidates won the March 2014 primary election and face no opposition on the November 4, 2014 ballot.  Following these races on the ballot, voters will find the retention judicial ballot where they will vote “Yes” or “No” for each of the judges.  The ballot summary from the Chicago Council of Lawyers includes only contested and retention judicial races.  Information about all judges and judicial candidates on the November 4, 2014 ballot can be found in the judicial evaluation report of the Chicago Council of Lawyers.

Thank you to those of you who supported our successful Annual Fundraising Luncheon held on October 1st.  For a copy of the keynote address by Juliana Stratton on criminal justice reform in Cook County, please CLICK HERE.  We distributed at the Luncheon a description of the accomplishments of the Collaboration for Justice.  For a copy of Collaboration for Justice: Programs and Accomplishments of the Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, please CLICK HERE.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers invites you to participate in Collaboration for Justice Advisory Committees through which you can get involved in meaningful systemic reform pro bono work. For more information, please CLICK HERE.

Featured Collaboration for Justice policy blogposts. Please CLICK HERE

Chicago Appleseed is a social impact research and advocacy organization which uses multidisciplinary research to identify community injustices, and to develop and advocate for practical solutions. Chicago Council of Lawyers is a public interest lawyer organization which advocates for a fair and effective administration of justice. Together, the two organizations comprise the Collaboration for Justice focusing on the areas of Criminal Justice Reform, Judicial and Lawyer Ethics, Immigration Court Reform, Payday Lending Reform/Economic Inclusion, and Family Law. The Chicago Council of Lawyers works independently of Chicago Appleseed in its efforts to evaluate judges for the purpose of educating voters.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice collaborate on issues that affect the administration of justice in Cook County. Click the link to read more about the Collaboration for Justice.

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