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Request federal probe into IPRA, Office of Cook County State’s Attorney

 

CHICAGO, IL — Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and the other 31 members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus called for an expanded investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into not only the Chicago Police Department, but the Independent Police Review Authority and the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the ILBC expressed support for this morning’s announcement that the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is initiating a patterns and practices investigation into the CPD but asked the federal agency to press farther by examining the entire apparatus through which allegations of police misconduct are addressed in Chicago.

“As a former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, I am proud to join in the Black Caucus’ call for an expanded investigation,” Raoul said. “I know that there are many hard-working assistant state’s attorneys and police officers serving and protecting the people of Chicago. But there are also strong indications that a culture exists in which some are pressured to tolerate or even cover up excessive force and discriminatory policing.”

While sweeping law enforcement reforms Raoul and his House colleague, Representative Elgie Sims, sponsored this year will take effect on January 1, 2016, Raoul and Sims pledged to use their positions as chairs of their chambers’ judiciary committees to further additional policies addressing police misconduct and excessive force. They will continue to work with the Attorney General and with the Commission on Police Professionalism, which their legislation created to study and propose a system of licensing police officers, as many other states do.

“As a legislator, I will continue to craft policies that can prevent these inexcusable tragedies from occurring in the future, but I will also advocate for a full, external investigation that will reveal the truth the public deserves,” Raoul said. “Now that Attorney General Lynch has sent the Department of Justice to Chicago, it is important that we not squander this opportunity to uncover every practice, every policy and every system that enables chronic miscarriages of justice.”

December 7, 2015

The Honorable Loretta Lynch
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Lynch:

On December 1, 2015, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested an investigation by the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division of the Chicago Police Department. Specifically, Attorney General Madigan asked for an examination of the CPD’s use of force, including deadly force; the adequacy of CPD’s review and investigation of officers’ use of force and allegations of misconduct; the CPD’s provision of training, equipment, and supervision to officers to allow them to do their job safely and effectively and whether there is a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing. We, the members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, strongly supported the investigation request and are pleased with the announcement that the DOJ will initiate a pattern and practice investigation into the Chicago Police Department.

Despite internal investigations and the work of the Independent Police Review Authority, officers within the Chicago Police Department rarely face consequences, criminal or disciplinary, for excessive use of force. The citizens of Chicago have lost confidence in their police department’s ability and desire to serve and protect every citizen. Therefore, we respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division extend the investigation into patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department to also determine whether there are systematic violations of the Constitution or federal law by the Independent Police Review Authority and/or the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney.

The fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald and the overall increase in shootings of unarmed African-Americans in Chicago illustrate a troubling pattern of conduct that has detrimentally eroded the trust that must exist between a community and the law enforcement agencies sworn to protect, maintain public safety and accomplish justice. Yet the practices that have severed the cords of trust in Chicago are not limited to the Chicago Police Department. The crisis of confidence stems also from actual and perceived delays in the investigation of officer-involved deaths and the use of excessive force, allegations and perceptions of selective prosecution and the failure of meaningful oversight and discipline of police at the local level.

As Attorney General Madigan noted, the Independent Police Review Authority has investigated nearly 400 officer-involved incidents since 2007, but has found the officer’s actions unjustified in only one of these instances. Recent data also shows that only three percent of public complaints result in discipline of an officer; yet, the City of Chicago has paid more than $500 million in police misconduct settlements since 2004.

Lorenzo Davis, an IPRA supervisor terminated from his position in July of this year, has said that the Scott Ando, chief administrator of the agency, asked him and others to change his findings to favor police officers in three cases. Ando’s resignation was announced December 6 without explanation. While it is important to remove all individuals who overlook wrongdoing from their positions, it is clear that an independent and impartial probe is needed to investigate these serious allegations so members of the public know they have genuine, unbiased recourse when they make complaints of unjust treatment by Chicago Police Department officers.

Ensuring public trust in the criminal justice system also requires fair and impartial prosecution. State’s attorneys possess a high degree of discretion and power. The Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s history of delayed, opaque or nonexistent prosecutions of police officers accused of excessive force and other misconduct toward the public raises urgent questions about the effectiveness of this office under its current leadership in fulfilling its mandate to protect all residents in an even-handed, thorough and unbiased manner. It is time to review the practices and policies of the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney to ensure that every individual, whether citizen or law enforcement, is treated equally.

In particular, it is crucial to examine the felony review process – the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s front-line, street-level interaction with victims of alleged excessive force – to determine if there have been acts or omissions that thwart the prosecution of crimes committed by officers. In September, Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Lattanzio was fired after a witness proved that Lattanzio had misrepresented statements she made to the felony review team. We do not believe this was an isolated incident. In fact, “60 Minutes” recently dubbed Chicago “the false confession capital of the United States.” It is simply not credible that this reputation was earned without the complicity of the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, both in felony review and at other levels.
In order to the restore the trust of all Chicagoans – particularly communities of color – in law enforcement, it is necessary to examine and address not only the police department itself, but the entire chain of response through which public complaints against law enforcement officers pass. We must have the greatest possible confidence in each individual’s access to justice, and we believe only an outside investigation of law enforcement, oversight and prosecution alike can restore that faith.

We have kept in contact and worked in concert with your office to address the above concerns through the medium of policy. We now respectfully request investigative action towards the Independent Police Review Authority and the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters further and assist you in any way.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

With sincere regards,

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, Joint Caucus Chair
Representative Elgie Sims, Jr., Treasurer
Representative Carol Ammons, Secretary
Representative Litesa Wallace, Sargent at Arms
Senator Emil Jones III, Senate Chair
Representative Rita Mayfield, House Chair
Representative John Anthony
Assistant House Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth
Senate Majority Leader James F. Clayborne, Jr.
Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins
Representative Monique Davis
Representative William Davis
Representative Ken Dunkin
Representative Marcus Evans
Representative Mary E. Flowers
Representative La Shawn Ford
Representative Sonya M. Harper
Senator Napoleon Harris III
Senate Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter
Senator Toi Hutchinson
Representative Eddie Jackson
Representative Thaddeus Jones
Representative Camille Lilly
Representative Christian Mitchell
Senator Kwame Raoul
Representative Pamela Reaves-Harris
Assistant House Majority Leader Al Riley
Representative Andre Thapedi

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