Chicago Police Transparency Pledge Failing to Live Up to Promise

Who polices the police when they do something they shouldn’t?  Chicago has made an attempt to do so by opening the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in order to make more information about police misconduct available to the public. The goal was to make misconduct investigations transparent and let the public quickly learn the outcomes.

However, according to ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune, the system is not working, largely because COPA does not report situations in which it found an officer at fault until the findings have been vetted by police officials and officers have been notified.  It can take months or more for reports which detail the problems to be made public — bad news for anyone who has been treated unfairly or injured by Chicago police.

According to the Better Government Association, there were 70 fatal shootings by the Chicago police between 2010 and 2014, a higher number than any other large city. Between 2004 and 2014, it cost the city $521 million to defend and settle excessive-force lawsuits.

If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, a conviction could bring penalties that include jail time, fines, penalty assessments and other costs. You will also have a criminal record that will follow you forever and negatively impact many aspects of your life.  Problems from unfair treatment or excessive force by the police can make the situation worse.

At this sensitive time, you need all the help you can get. The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know the courts and the criminal justice system, and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take your case to trial.  We offer a free consultation to gather information about your situation and look at all viable defense options, including mistreatment by the police, so call us at 630-305-0222 today to schedule your free initial consultation.

How the COPA System Works

If, after investigation, COPA recommends discipline, the Superintendent of Police has up to 90 days to respond. If he disagrees with the recommendation, he can ask for an additional investigation. If there is still no agreement, one member of the Chicago Police Board makes the decision. COPA is not allowed to post its investigative reports and any disagreement from the Police Department until the review process is complete and the officer is notified of being disciplined.

These long delays diminish trust and transparency. Officers can challenge punishments even after investigations are concluded, and it can take years for their appeals to be exhausted.

Why the problem

Misconduct is not only harmful to the individuals affected — it damages the reputation of the Chicago Police Department and leads to low officer morale and erosion of officer accountability.

Adding to the problem is the fact that it is often the same police officers who repeatedly commit misconduct, and it is committed far more often against African Americans. Statistics cited by the Department of Justice show that CPD has used force almost 10 times more often against blacks than against whites.

Perhaps the most notorious example is the case of Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot Laquan McDonald, an African American teen, 16 times in October 2014, even after the teen had fallen to the ground. McDonald was charged with first-degree murder.  The case was investigated only after the courts ordered release of a video showing the shooting.  Data from the University of Chicago and the journalism non-profit Invisible Institute revealed that Van Dyke, a white 14-year veteran of Chicago’s police force, had been accused of misconduct 17 times before. The comprehensive database of complaints against Chicago police officers showed that fewer than five percent of the tens of thousands of allegations resulted in disciplinary actions for the officers, and none of the complaints against Van Dyke led to a penalty.

It has been suggested that the responses to the killing of Laquan McDonald, including the code of silence, protracted investigation as a form of cover-up, and the use of settlements to avoid public and judicial scrutiny, are the norm in Chicago.

According to a Huffington Post analysis of four years of city data released by the Invisible Institute, there are more than 180 city police officers with more complaints than Van Dyke who weren’t disciplined at all in that period.  Most of those complaints were made by black residents, and the data showed that of 10,500 complaints filed by black people between 2011 and 2015, only 1.6 percent were sustained or led to discipline after an internal investigation.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of police misconduct or are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find.  Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, the law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique with its own set of circumstances. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process to develop an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights, whether or not police misconduct is involved.

We are aggressive litigators, and we will work with you to answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call 630-305-0222 today, or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation.