Cycle of Misconduct: How Chicago has Repeatedly Failed to Police its Police

By Elizabeth J. Andonova


The Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) has often faced accusations of being dishonest and corrupt. To deal with CPD’s bad reputation, numerous mayors and police superintendents created, and later tried to reform, agencies tasked with holding the police department and its staff accountable. None of their efforts have succeeded thus far. Every time an agency was formed, or reformed, the public was sold a promise of more accountability, only to be invariably disappointed. These failed attempts at amelioration started in the early 1960s and have evolved into a noticeable pattern: police officers misbehave, the public expresses anger over their misbehavior, the officers’ superiors make promises of change, and then there is another police scandal. The cycle repeats itself.

Recently, Chicagoans found themselves in the cycle again. On October 20, 2014, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fired sixteen bullets into the seventeen-year-old body of Laquan McDonald. Most of them hit him post-mortem.1 The homicide was caught on dash-cam video, which police refused to publicly release until forced to do so by a judge’s order, thirteen months after the shooting.2 The story told by police—that McDonald lunged at officers with a knife causing one of them to shoot in self-defense—was exposed as clearly false by the video footage.3 McDonald can be seen walking down the middle of the street with his hands at his side.4 Squad cars surround him and multiple officers exit their vehicles with guns drawn and pointed at the teen. Only seconds after exiting his vehicle, Van Dyke shoots at the teen and does not stop until his gun’s magazine is empty.

Although the State’s Attorney’s office received the incriminating dash-cam video5 within two weeks of McDonald’s death, no criminal charges were filed against Van Dyke. Six months later, when the City Council approved a $5,000,000 settlement with the teen’s family, Van Dyke was still employed as a police officer and no criminal charges had been filed against him.6 The settlement, according to Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton, was influenced by the dash-cam video, which he deemed an important piece of evidence against the officer.7 Settlement notwithstanding, Van Dyke remained em­ployed as an officer until November 24, 2015 when he was finally charged with first degree murder for McDonald’s death.8

This was the first time that a Chicago Police officer was charged for an on-duty killing of a citizen in almost thirty-five years.9 However, State’s At­torney Anita Alvarez does not deserve the credit for it. There is no reason to believe that Alvarez would have charged Van Dyke had it not been for the public outcry over the video during her re-election campaign. As for the officers who lied along with, and on behalf of, Van Dyke, two of them were finally put on desk duty approximately nine months after McDonald’s killing.10

Since the video’s release, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been fol­lowing in his predecessor’s footsteps in an attempt to regain the public’s confidence. Although Emanuel claims he did not see the McDonald video until it was released and that he will be more aggressive in pursuing police reform, many people are appropriately skeptical. Many citizens suspect that the video was withheld from public release by Emanuel until the close of a highly contested mayoral race between Emanuel and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a more progressive candidate.11 Countless Chicagoans have called for Emanuel’s resignation and his approval ratings have plummeted in the wake of the video release.12 A recall bill aiming to oust Emanuel has even been introduced.13

History is a window to the future. So far, Emanuel has promised “a compre­hensive plan to fundamentally reshape our system of police accountability,” yet  he has not specifically discussed any reforms that are likely to work any better than those of the past. After all, he would not be the first to offer com­prehensive reforms that did not deliver.14 Within the last 60 years, Chicago has repeatedly failed to root out police corruption, and it will continue to fail in that goal unless there is a radical change in dealing with police misconduct.

Attempts at Reforming the Chicago Police Department

The Chicago Police Department’s unshakable reputation for dishonesty and corruption was first challenged in 1960 when a crescendo of public anger over police misconduct peaked after news of “the Summerdale Scandal” broke out.15 In 1958 and 1959, Summerdale District police officers teamed up with well-known burglar Richard Morrison to burgle businesses throughout the City.16 Their scheme ended when Morrison was arrested on July 30, 1959, and decided that he was not going down alone.17 In a 77-page confession, he detailed the police officers’ involvement in the burglaries: they had picked the locations, acted as lookouts and getaway drivers, and, toward the end, even participated in the actual break-ins.18 The following January, search warrants were executed on the homes of the eight policemen and four truckloads of stolen goods were impounded.19 A few days later, three more officers were indicted for altering evidence in a case against Morrison to gain him an acquittal. 20 Evidencing the politics underlying the controversy, the indict­ments against them were dropped because a clerk used a comma instead of a semicolon in a relevant document.21

The Police Commissioner at that time, Timothy O’Connor, resigned to avoid taking responsibility for failing to properly control his officers.22 When Mayor Daley announced the commissioner’s resignation, he “lauded” O’Connor’s good record but added that the commissioner should have been watching his officers rather than sitting at home in front of the TV.23 Some people believe that O’Connor’s resignation was not as voluntary as it seemed, and that he was used as a scapegoat.24 Chicago’s current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, had a similar reaction after McDonald’s 2014 murder, praising then-Superintendent Garry McCarthy for his contributions to policing just before announcing McCarthy’s resignation.25 Resigning in the face of major police scandals has become a CPD norm.26

O’Connor was replaced in February of 1960 by Orlando W. Wilson, a former dean of criminology and author of Police Administration.27 Wilson immediately started implementing departmental changes at CPD.28 He modernized the communications center, changed the colors of squad cars to blue-and-white,29 created the Department’s official motto “We Serve and Protect,”30 and instituted the Bureau of Inspectional Services, which included the Internal Investigations Division.31 The Internal Investigations Division focused on “ferreting out corruption on all levels,” and by any means.32 The Bureau of Internal Affairs, also known as the Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”), still exists. However, other police oversight agencies have been created as a result of IAD’s ineffectiveness.33 Although Wilson’s many reforms seemed promising, within a decade serious police misconduct issues cropped up again.34 By then Wilson had been replaced by Superintendent James Conlisk Jr.35

At the end of August, 1968, the Windy City hosted the now infamous Democratic National Convention (“DNC”).36 Leading up to the event there  were nationwide Vietnam War protests37 and civil rights demonstrations, which were fueled by Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April of that year.38 Despite Chicago’s poor handling of protests in response to King’s murder prior to the DNC,39 as well as the fact that similar demonstrations were expected to continue wherever the DNC was held, Mayor Daley was adamant that Chicago should host.40 In preparation for the event, Daley saturated the city with law enforcement.

Some 11,950 Chicago police officers, 5,000 Illinois National Guard members, and 5,000 army troops were readied to ensure that order would be maintained throughout the city during the DNC.41 However, an arguably counterproductive tactic was also deployed: the city denied requests for march permits, as well as requests to allow people to sleep at public parks. Protests were inevitable and banning them effectively forced protesters to break the law.42 When activists refused to be silenced, tension between demonstrators and police quickly mounted, culminating in a brutal clash upon Hubert Hum­phrey’s —considered by some a “war mongerer”—election as the Democratic presidential nominee.43 At Grant Park, police attacked a young man while he tried lowering the American flag to  protest Humphrey’s nomination.44 In turn, police were pelted with rocks and other objects, which resulted in an attack on demonstrators with tear gas.45 Soon, an all-out riot ensued.46 As TV cameras rolled in front of the Hilton Hotel Chicago, police officers beat protesters, bystanders, and reporters,47 seemingly indiscriminately.48

When it was all over, attorney Daniel Walker led a federal investigation into what had occurred during the DNC.49 He found that the police were exhausted and provoked by protesters but that their reaction was nonetheless grossly unprofessional.50 Walker reported that officers incited a police riot and blamed Mayor Daley for inflaming police with statements he had made earlier that year about shooting protesters at race riots.51 Daley disagreed, stating that the police successfully defended the city.52 Unsurprisingly, the perception of a police-induced riot against Daley’s denial of any wrongdoing further damaged the already strained relationship between the public and the police.53 Relations continued to deteriorate from there.

A little over a year after the DNC disaster, on December 4, 1969, Chicago police officers killed Fred Hampton,54 a leader in the burgeoning Black Pan­ther movement, when they fired “more than eighty shotgun rounds into an apartment” shared by him and several other Black Panthers.55 Although at least one newspaper article described Hampton’s death at the hands of police as a “summary execution,”56 the State’s Attorney’s Office and police depart­ment maintained that the Black Panthers instigated the 3:00AM shootout.57 One elderly African-American woman aptly called the murder of Hampton  “nothing but a Northern lynching.”58

Eventually State’s Attorney Hanrahan dropped the attempted murder charges that had been levied against the surviving Black Panther members who were in Hampton’s apartment (and supposedly attacked the raiding officers) on the evening of Hampton’s murder, when confronted with the overwhelming ballistics evidence contradicting the CPD’s version of events.59 Instead, a special prosecutor indicted Hanrahan as well as some of the raid­ing officers for obstruction of justice, though all were ultimately acquitted in a bench trial.60 The Black community was outraged, and successfully led the effort to oust Hanrahan.61 Even so, it took thirteen years of litigation to provide a sliver of justice for the deaths of Fred Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark, also murdered that evening. In 1983 the City finally settled with the raid’s survivors and the victims’ families.62 Unsurprisingly, none of the Chicago cops who participated in the raid were criminally charged with murder or anything close to it.

In 1972, public concern over police misconduct focused on CPD’s oversight agency. A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed a pattern within Internal Investigations of either outright ignoring citizen complaints against the CPD or not thoroughly investigating them (such as failing to contact key wit­nesses).63 Where officers were disciplined in response to citizen complaints, it was often in the form of “suspensions shorter than those levied against policemen who take an unauthorized lunch break,” even where officers were found to have inflicted serious injuries upon innocent citizens.64

By 1973, however, thirty-five police officers were charged in federal court for allegations including abuse, brutality, and false arrest.65 The lawsuit also charged that “the police superintendent, the Chicago Police Board, and the City of Chicago willfully refused to investigate or punish police miscon­duct.”66 At the same time, citizens’ groups were loudly complaining about Police Superintendent John Conlisk’s overly aggressive policing tactics. The pressure finally overwhelmed Conlisk, who resigned on October 10, 1973—a few days after over a dozen policemen were indicted for a shakedown racket. Conlisk was replaced by James Rochford.67 Like Conlisk before him, Roch­ford promised reform and a newly designed police accountability agency.68

The Office of Professional Standards

James Rochford determined that the solution for rebuilding the public’s trust was through major organizational changes,69 which included the 1974 establishment of the Office of Professional Standards (“OPS”). OPS’s purpose was to “operate independently” in investigating complaints about police bru­tality and corruption.70 In reality, it was not independent at all. OPS’s office was within the police department and investigators reported to the police superintendent.71 Predictably, police misconduct continued to be the norm. Although the number of police misdoings during OPS’s lifetime are far too numerous to address individually, at least some are worth discussing in order to demonstrate the extent of OPS’s ineffectiveness through its 33-year lifespan. The most famous of all was exposed in January 1990, when journalist John Conroy published an article detailing the heinous torture Andrew Wilson suffered in 1982, at the hands of Area 2 officers working under then Police Commander Jon Burge.72 The shocking details were news to those whom seldom dealt with police, but they weren’t news to those within the Chicago Police Department. In November 1990, in response to complaints of torture by Area 2 officers including Burge, Gayle Shines, then Chief Administrator of OPS, sent a memo to then Superintendent of Police, LeRoy Martin, titled “Special Project Conclusion Reports (The Burge Investigation)” (hereinafter “Goldston Report”).73 Investigator Michael Goldston found that:

the preponderance of the evidence is that abuse did occur and that it was sys­tematic . . . the number of incidents in which an Area 2 command member is identified as an accused can lead to only one conclusion. Particular command members were aware of the systematic abuse and perpetuated it either by ac­tively participating in same or failing to take any action to bring it to an end.74

The abuse referred to in the Goldston Report had been ongoing for 13 years—between 1973 and 1986—and Burge was repeatedly named as centrally involved.75 However, despite the Area 2 team’s egregious actions, Superintendent Martin waited an entire year after receiving the report before suspending Burge and two other officers.76 Moreover, the City tried to bury the Goldston Report by portraying its findings as unsubstantiated.77 Neverthe­less, the evidence continued to stack up against Burge. In 1996, John Conroy published yet another article detailing the torture suffered by six other men.78 It became painfully obvious that Burge and his officers were being protected by the Blue Wall of Silence, the same “wall” that many believe currently shields Officer Van Dyke.79

In 1999, three years after Conroy’s article, two innocent youths were killed by Chicago police officers without justification. One of them, LaTanya Hag­gerty, was shot and killed when a police officer claimed to have mistaken an object she was holding for a gun.80 Within the same 24-hour period, Robert Russ, a Northwestern University football player, was shot and killed by a police officer. Neither he nor Haggerty were armed. The cop who shot Hag­gerty lost her job, but the one who shot Russ got a mere 15-day suspension.81 More police killings followed.

Between 2002 and 2004, if a police officer received an excessive force complaint, his chances of being “meaningfully disciplined”—such as re­ceiving a seven-day suspension—were two out of 1000.82 One appalling demonstration of how rarely discipline was imposed is the 2002 case of a firefighter living on the city’s south side. He reported to OPS that a group of cops broke into his home, beat him up, and then threatened to plant drugs on him if he complained.83 His complaint, however, was disregarded.84 One of the officers accused, Jerome Finnigan, had by that time accrued over 70 citizen complaints. Finnigan was not disciplined for a single one.85 Perhaps this was because, as Finnigan himself later disclosed, all it took to stop an OPS investigation was a phone call to a “high ranking member of the Internal Affairs Division.”86 Finnigan explained that he had successfully employed this strategy when he was investigated for stealing $13,000 from someone’s home.87 However, although OPS turned a blind eye to Finnigan’s misconduct, federal prosecutors were not so accommodating. In 2006, he was indicted for multiple criminal offenses.88 Finnigan pled guilty in 2011 to tax evasion and ordering a hit on a police officer whom he feared would expose the criminal activities in which Finnigan and a group of conspiring officers were involved.89

On March 8, 2003, Officer Alvin Weems killed 23-year-old Michael Pleasance at the 95th Street Red Line station.90 Pleasance was friends with a man named Anderson, who had gotten into a fight at the station. Pleasance was not involved in the fight himself and, by the time Weems shot Pleasance, Anderson was in custody. Pleasance can be seen on CTA surveillance video coming around to Weems and trying to talk to the officer right before being shot in the head. Initially, the police department claimed Weems shot Pleas­ance because Pleasance tried taking the officer’s gun. Unsurprisingly, the Department’s story unraveled when the CTA video was released per a judge’s order in the wrongful death lawsuit against the CPD. The video demonstrated that Pleasance was a mere bystander of a fight that Weems was breaking up. Although OPS recommended Weems’s termination, then Police Superin­tendent Philip Cline decided against it. Instead, Weems received a 30-day suspension, and was later promoted to detective.91 Cline ultimately resigned from his position in 2007 for failing to discipline six drunk, off-duty police officers caught on a surveillance camera beating several innocent citizens outside a Chicago bar (discussed in further detail below).92

Similar cases of unchecked police misconduct continued to occur. In 2004, a female university professor was beaten by James Chevas, a police officer with more than fifty complaints filed against him.93 The woman was charged with aggravated battery,94 while the corresponding complaint against Chevas was determined to be “unfounded”95 by OPS.96 A jury disagreed. It found that the woman had been battered by Chevas and that the city had maliciously prosecuted her.97 In 2005, OPS cleared police officers accused of sodomizing Coprez Coffie with a screwdriver, 98 even though, according to Coffie’s attorney, the internal investigation revealed screwdrivers in the cars of accused officers, fecal matter in the glove compartment, and an injury to Coffie’s rectum.99 A jury again disagreed with OPS, believing Coffie, not the cops.100 Meanwhile, that summer, pressure for reform and accountability was mounting as a number of groups, including human rights organizations, attorneys, and activists petitioned for an investigation into the Jon Burge torture scandal.101

In February 2007, Officer Anthony Abbate pummeled bartender Karolina Obrycka because she refused to serve the already drunk cop more alcohol.102 Obrycka and her boss told responding officers Peter Masheimer103 and Jerry Knickerehm that Obrycka’s attack was caught on tape and that her attacker was a Chicago police officer. Masheimer and Knickerehm omitted the latter fact in their incident report.104 Fearing that the responsible officers would not be disciplined, Obrycka’s lawyers publically released the video of her assault. In it, Abbate can be seen going behind the bar and beating Obrycka with his hands and feet.105 Prior to the video’s public release, Abbate was charged with misdemeanor battery. After it was released the charges were upgraded to felony aggravated battery.106 Abbate was found guilty two years later and sentenced to two years of probation.107 It would not be a stretch to assume that the only reason Abbate was held accountable was because there was a video, seen nationwide, of him beating Obrycka.108 In this regard, his outcome sharply deviates from the norm.109

That same year the head of OPS resigned and the Independent Police Review Authority was formed.110 Meanwhile, OPS was now infamous for ruling virtually all complaints against police officers as “unsubstantiated.”111

The Independent Police Review Authority

The Office of Professional Standards was reorganized in 2007 and renamed the Independent Police Review Authority (“IPRA”), with new emphasis placed on “independent.” The agency’s stated purpose was to consider allegations filed against police department personnel regarding issues of “excessive force, domestic violence, coercion through violence,112 and verbal bias-based abuse.”113 The IPRA was also responsible for investigating all “officer involved shootings, extraordinary occurrences in lock-up, and uses of Tasers.”114 Most importantly, it sought to provide “transparency to the disciplinary process.”115

There were several ways in which the IPRA aimed to fulfill its mandate. These included: removing the agency from its place within the Chicago Po­lice Department and providing it with subpoena powers.116 The IPRA would also be required to issue annual progress reports as part of its goal to further agency transparency and accountability.117 The IPRA originally moved to a space on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus, and since the end of 2011, has resided in the historic Goldblatt Building.118 It has also provided quarterly reports regarding its investigations, and until 2013, posted similar annual reports. By most counts, the agency seemed to be doing exactly what it had promised. However, with time, the IPRA proved that, as with its pre­decessors, it was not as independent and transparent as it was designed to be.

The IPRA’s shortcomings are most evident in statistical analyses of in­vestigators’ reported findings (discussed in the section below). And, more recently, in emails between the IPRA and Rahm Emanuel’s staff. For example, in one email, then-Chief Administrator at the IPRA, Scott Ando, emailed the Mayor’s office with a link to a website that discussed the McDonald shoot­ing, even though the agency’s main goal is to be independent of the Police Department, which works closely with the Mayor’s Office.119 Additionally, former IPRA employees have revealed that the IPRA has engaged in various tactics to make its statistics seem more promising than they actually are and that some investigators may have been required to change their findings if they found against police officers in certain cases.120

Is IPRA just a new moniker for OPS?

The IPRA rarely holds police officers responsible for their bad acts, and when it does the Police Board often steps in and disregards the IPRA’s disciplinary recommendations. The proof is in the numbers. Since its incep­tion in 2007, the IPRA has found only two on-duty police officer shootings unjustified.121 The 407 other shootings were apparently justified, despite the millions of dollars doled out by the city each year in private settlements. Moreover, from 2011 to 2015, 97 percent of the 28,500 complaints filed with the IPRA resulted in no discipline for the accused officers.122 On one hand, some might think this a sign that people are just filing meritless complaints and that the Chicago Police Department is actually operating effectively. On the other hand, those who have consistently followed the IPRA disagree. The Chicago Council of Lawyers, for example, stated that “[b]ased on its years of experience in reviewing [the] IPRA and [the Bureau of Internal Affairs], [it] believes that these statistics are the product of a faulty process, not the result of mostly meritless complaints.”123 The statistics from the IPRA’s quarterly reports and the many lawsuits filed against Chicago suggest that the Council of Lawyers is correct.

The Complaint Process

Theoretically, the process by which police misconduct complaints to the IPRA are handled is simple.124 Once the agency receives a complaint, it investigates the allegations internally and then recommends a result.125 The process is well-delineated in Municipal Ordinance 2-57-060. If the allegation is within the IPRA’s jurisdiction, the agency has the power to subpoena of­ficers and witnesses to get necessary information.126 Once the investigation is complete,127 an IPRA officer may conclude that the complaint was sustained, not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated.128 If the complaint is sustained and the IPRA makes a disciplinary recommendation, that recommendation is reviewed by the police superintendent, who then has 90 days to respond. If there is no response, then the assumption is that the IPRA’s recommenda­tion was accepted. The superintendent must explain in writing any decision to take an action that is different from the IPRA’s recommendation. Within ten days, the superintendent and the IPRA’s chief administrator must meet to discuss the reasons for the discrepancy.129 If no consensus is reached, the issue is addressed by a three-member panel of the Chicago Police Board, 130 an agency often criticized for making biased decisions in favor of police of­ficers.131 One of the Board’s central purposes is to decide the final outcome of disciplinary cases “involving police misconduct[,]”132 which includes conducting hearings for disciplinary actions such as officer suspensions or discharges.133 Accordingly, the panel has significant power in determining the extent of officer discipline. In turn, the panel plays a direct role in nurturing the culture of impunity within the CPD.

The sworn affidavit requirement

Under Illinois law complainants are required to submit a sworn affidavit to the IPRA to have their case actually investigated.134 As such, from early 2008 through the end of 2015, approximately one-third 135 of complaints filed with the IPRA were simply not investigated because complainants did not include a signed affidavit. Although individuals can file a complaint remotely, if they want their complaint to be investigated, they will eventually need to physically visit a Chicago Police Department precinct in order to sign a sworn affidavit. Based on the high rate of dismissals due to missing affidavits, it is obvious that a substantial number of individuals are unwilling or unable to comply with this requirement.

In 2009 public apprehension toward the affidavits requirement was ex­acerbated when the IPRA adopted a policy that its Legal Unit would start reviewing every investigation that resulted in an “unfounded” decision for evidence that the affiant made a false statement in his or her complaint.136 The IPRA claimed that it adopted the policy to maintain the integrity of its investigative process yet the agency neglected to explain why the integrity of its process might be undermined in the first place. There is no discussion in any of its quarterly reports, for example, about an overwhelming number of false statements being uncovered. According to former IPRA investigator Lorenzo Davis, there are not many frivolous complaints filed with IPRA.137

If a complaint is deemed false by the IPRA, the complainant could end up being prosecuted under the False Statements Ordinance,138 resulting in fines of more than $1000.139 The IPRA’s chief administrator explained the rationale behind this practice: “our thinking was to take a balanced ap­proach—treating the public similarly to the way we would handle a police officer.” However, “a balanced approach” is  not how police officers are treated. Police officers are given an opportunity to amend their statements to the IPRA, and they are therefore not prosecuted for inconsistencies. Moreover, the IPRA has constantly struggled with budgetary and staffing issues during its lifetime, and therefore it seems impractical to take on the additional duty of reviewing affidavits for falsehoods. The IPRA’s job is to investigate the police, not to be the police. Its decision to investigate and prosecute false statements not only shields police from otherwise legitimate disciplinary action, but actively discourages reporting. This, of course, undermines the IPRA’s core purpose: holding police accountable while remaining independent from the CPD.

Statistics from IPRA’s quarterly & annual reports

The IPRA is required to fulfill its transparency goals by releasing quarterly reports which “describe the number and type of complaints received, inves­tigations opened, investigations closed, and the number of pending investi­gations” every three months.140 Those reports are posted on its website. The agency is also required to provide annual reports regarding the same matters. An analysis of those reports revealed the agency’s relative ineffectiveness in handling police misconduct. The IPRA rarely sustains a complaint, that is, it rarely finds in favor of the complainant, and has been fairly consistent in failing to do so throughout its brief existence.141 (See graph below.)

In 2008, the IPRA forwarded 73 percent of the 9,773 complaints it received to the Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”). Of those cases it retained, the IPRA closed142 2,585 cases and only sustained 57 complaints, or 2.21 percent.143 In 2009, of the 10,074 complaints the IPRA received, 72 percent were sent to IAD, 2,568 were retained, and of those retained only 42 cases—1.64 per­cent—were sustained.144 In 2010, 1.51 percent of complaints were sustained; in 2011, 2.57 percent were sustained; in 2012, 3.89 percent were sustained; in 2013, 5.48 percent were sustained; in 2014, 5.7 percent were sustained; and in 2015, 6.2 percent of retained cases were sustained. It seems improbable that in 97 percent of retained cases, the citizens’ complaints were in one way or another deemed “unfounded.”145

Only 3 percent of officers received any sort of disciplinary recommen­dation by the IPRA during a seven-year period. And of these, not all were disciplined. Officers are entitled to an appeals process after a disciplinary recommendation is imposed. Separately, the Superintendent of Police must approve the IPRA’s recommendations before an officer is disciplined, so often an appeal is not even necessary in order for the officer to avoid discipline.

Although the numbers make it seem as if the IPRA sustained more and more cases every year, the statistics are deceiving. For example, in 2011, the IPRA started increasing its use of mediation. By agreeing to mediation, officers who are willing to admit fault receive less severe disciplinary ac­tion. Essentially, officers agree to a slap on the wrist in order to avoid more serious punishment.146 Meanwhile, the IPRA boosts its “sustained” numbers artificially, creating a false perception of the agency’s effectiveness.

Other theories have been proposed for the apparent increase in “sustained” findings. A report by the Community Renewal Society found that the IPRA’s numbers may look more promising because the punishment recommendations have become more lenient. For example, a recommendation of “reprimand,” a less severe punishment, was recommended at approximately the same rate as “separation” from 2008 to 2011, and was recommended twice as often from 2012 to 2014.147

Moreover, there are significant data omissions. First, the vast majority of cases reported to the IPRA are not investigated by the IPRA and are not pub­licly reported by the agency that investigates them, since they are transferred outside of IPRA. Second, among the complaints that the IPRA investigates and closes, many are inexplicably missing. For example, in 2015, the IPRA closed 2,210 cases but only reported its conclusions for 1,542. Therefore in 2015 alone 668 closed cases are unaccounted for.

Repeat offenders & the cost of ignoring malfeasance

The toll paid in human lives and city dollars due to systemic police misconduct is staggering. From 2009 to 2013, the Better Government As­sociation found that 1,611 misconduct-related lawsuits were filed against the Chicago Police Department.148 In the past ten years, the city paid out  $610 million in police misconduct settlements.149 In the five years before the IPRA was formed—between 2002 and 2007­—taxpayers paid $27 million for ap­proximately two dozen lawsuits stemming from police shootings.150 This figure does not include the additional $18 million that the Haggerty family received. Notwithstanding the settlements, none of the officers involved in the shootings were fired and none were suspended for longer than one year.151 Already this year the City Council has authorized $6.5 million to settle police misconduct claims.152

The IPRA’s apparent reluctance to hold officers accountable is certainly troubling and calls into question the agency’s stated purpose. Even worse is the fact that many officers have numerous complaints filed against them that go ignored unless or until the officer commits a serious crime. The Jerome Finnigan case, mentioned above, is an example. In Finnigan’s group, another officer, Keith Herrera, helped steal thousands of dollars. Officer Herrera had 67 citizen complaints filed against him before he encountered Mr. Finnigan, but he was disciplined only twice.153 Finnigan and Herrera are just two ex­amples in a police department plagued by corruption and cover-ups.

In another case, Officer Daniel Bora, who shot a fifteen-year-old named Frances Bell, “acknowledged in testimony that he fired [his gun] after [Bell’s] car passed and [he] was no longer a threat. [Bora] said he was aiming for the driver.”154 Thirty-one complaints have been filed against Bora, yet only one was sustained.155 And, after Bell’s injury, the IPRA still found that the officers involved acted properly.156

Similarly, Officer David Rodriguez shot Herbert McCarter in 1999. OPS recommended that Rodriguz be fired, since medical records revealed that McCarter was shot in the back, not in the abdomen as Rodriguez claimed. Despite OPS’s recommendation and incriminating forensic evidence, Rodri­guez was not disciplined. Rodriguez has had nineteen complaints—mostly for using excessive force—filed against him and not a single one ended in disciplinary action.157 Remarkably, Rodriguez is now a sergeant earning over $ 100,000 per year.158

On November 13, 2007, Chicago rapper Freddie Wilson was pulled over by officers Tomislav Vidljinevic and Jason Santiago for a broken headlight. Wilson was shot 18 times after he allegedly pulled out a gun and pointed it at the policemen.159 Witnesses disputed the story, saying Wilson was un­armed.160 A gun found on the scene did not have Wilson’s prints on it,161 and the city settled with Wilson’s family for $4.5 million because “the physical evidence at the scene contradicted officers’ testimony of Wilson pointing the gun at them and holding onto it until he fell to the ground outside of his car.”162 The officers lied. They were never disciplined,163 and both are still employed by the CPD.164

On June 7, 2011, 29-year-old Flint Farmer was shot in the back by Officer Gildardo Sierra.165 This was the third time in just six months that Sierra had shot someone, and the second time that he had killed a person. The previ­ous January Sierra had killed a 27-year-old man.166 In March he wounded a 19-year-old.167 Sierra’s defense was a classic “he had a gun,” but it turned out to be a cellphone.168 Sierra said he was still in fear of his life when he circled the now wounded Farmer—who was lying on the ground—and shot him three more times.169 The Cook County Medical examiner who performed the autopsy said the last three shots were the fatal ones.170 The police department found all of the shootings justified, despite a video which documented that Sierra shot Farmer in the back while Farmer was lying on the ground. Sierra has at least nine complaints against him, only one of which was sustained, and he’s still on the City’s payroll as a police officer.171 The IPRA referred all three of Sierra’s shootings to the State’s Attorney’s office, which refused to bring criminal charges.172 Ultimately, despite arguing that Sierra had acted properly, the city settled with Farmer’s family for $4.1 million.173

On January 7, 2013, Officers Kevin Fry and Lou Toth were on a routine patrol when they spotted a car that had been reported in a recent carjacking. Inside the car was Cedrick Chatman, who fled almost immediately after seeing the officers. While fleeing, he was shot by Fry. Initially, the officers claimed that Chatman pointed something at them. However, during a civil deposition in 2014, their story changed. When Fry was asked, “[b]ut he never pointed anything at you or Officer Toth on Jan. 7, 2013, correct?,” he responded “cor­rect.” Fry has had thirty complaints174 filed against him, and Toth has had thirteen. None of the complaints against either officer have been sustained.175 And, despite his admission, Fry is still employed as a police officer today.176

In 2013, a retired judge gave a video to a magazine that showed Officer Marco Proano shooting into a car of teenagers. The city settled the case for $360,000 in 2015. This was not the first time the city was held liable for Pro­ano’s negligent actions. In 2011, Proano shot and killed a 19-year-old. In that case, the IPRA found no fault. However, a jury awarded the deceased’s mother $3.5 million in damages. However, to the jury’s surprise, the presiding judge overturned the verdict because of confusion over a “special interrogatory” on the verdict form.177 Like other repeat offenders within the CPD, Proano received nine complaints within a four-year period but was never disciplined by the IPRA.178 The IPRA’s investigation into Proano’s killing of the 19-year-old took two years to complete despite the IPRA’s official policy of limiting investigations to six months.179

The examples above are just a glimpse into the high costs of ignoring police misconduct. If the IPRA employed its powers to appropriately disci­pline officers with patterns of misconduct, the city might not have to pay out so much in legal fees. These expenses are doubly significant because they reinforce the police’s blue wall of silence. Since officers are generally not personally liable in wrongful death and police misconduct civil suits, they are in no way incentivized to breach the wall. For officers who are prone to misbehavior, they are rewarded—by escaping disciplinary action—when they use this silence to protect each other from accountability.180

When agencies tasked with police accountability ignore citizen complaints, especially complaints revealing habitual offenders,181 it is both dangerous for the public and expensive for the city. The lawsuits filed against police officers alone cost taxpayers millions. But of course, the costs reach beyond mere dollar amounts. The Chicago Police Department has long-struggled with wor­risome police behavior. Trust in police officers naturally deteriorates when citizens see that police officers are continually shooting and killing their community members. The IPRA was designed to decrease the prevalence of police misconduct. It is clear that the agency has failed.

Super due process, the FOP, and the police bill of rights

In addition to police accountability agencies’ failures to redress police mis­conduct, another group has made it exceedingly difficult to “police the police.” The Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge No. 7 (“FOP” or “the Lodge”) has been the collective bargaining agent for the Chicago Police Department since 1981.182 The FOP is an additional barrier to reform and accountability in two significant ways. First, it controls and distorts the narrative around misconduct. Second, and most importantly, the FOP avoids accountability through its city contract.

The FOP makes a significant effort to shape narratives of police misconduct incidents to protect officers. Current FOP spokesman, Pat Camden, represents the institutional voice tasked with delivering FOP’s spin. According to one journalist, Camden has developed a strategy to reach out to media after a shooting in order to provide his version of events first.183 In 2012, Camden was the first in line to report a shooting and, unsurprisingly, immediately defended the officer’s actions. According to Camden, Jamaal Moore was an armed robbery suspect who was shot by police after crashing a SUV, and then, presumably, threatening police.184 A similar narrative was provided by the police department.185 In finding the shooting justified, the IPRA officer—who had never once recommended discipline in 159 misconduct investigations186—followed the FOP rhetoric.187 However, video footage contradicted the official narrative and ultimately led to Moore’s estate receiving $1.25 million in a settlement. In addition, the judge who presided over the case found that the video evidence “undercuts” the official narratives promulgated by the FOP and officers involved.188

The same year, following the murder of Rekia Boyd, Camden reported that Officer Servin, who killed Boyd, “was in fear for his life.”189 It later turned out that Servin’s claim—that he was threatened with a gun—was false.190 More recently, regarding the murder of Laquan McDonald, Camden stated that Van Dyke shot McDonald only after he was put in fear of his life—when the teen lunged at him with a knife.191 Unsurprisingly, this claim was also false.192 After the release of video evidence contradicting Camden’s recital of events, Camden admitted that he had “no idea where [his official state­ment] came from.”193 An analysis by the City Bureau and Chicago Reader of other police-involved shootings found that Camden has provided preliminary narratives of this sort in at least thirty-five cases, fifteen of which included crucial details later proved false.194

A former Los Angeles Police Department chief commented on the danger of police unions acting so carelessly after excessive force incidents: “The growing strength of police unions over the last 20 years has given them a feeling of impunity and arrogance that their only job is to protect the po­lice officer regardless of what they’ve actually done.”195 This seems to be true for the Chicago Lodge, and it seems to be swaying internal, as well as independent, misconduct investigations. The LAPD chief noted that such preliminary narratives amount to the “the best definition of interfering with an investigation,” excoriating the city’s administration for being complicit in such obstructive tactics.196 Although it is understandable that the FOP would first and foremost protect the interests of the officer it represents, the FOP is often too generous in so doing.197

The FOP’s role in obstructing justice for victims who suffer police mis­conduct and their families is appalling. However, the FOP rhetoric may not influence citizens’ lives as much as the contract it has with the city. While the IPRA deserves much of the blame for its ineffectiveness in curbing police misconduct, the collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) of the Chicago police play a significant role as well. Of chief importance, the CBA severely constricts the way officers can be investigated and disciplined. By including provisions that provide officers with extraordinary protections when they are investigated for misconduct, the FOP has handicapped the public’s ability to hold the police accountable. Similar provisions did not exist in the 1960s when the first police accountability agency was founded.198 According to the FOP president, if the provisions were not in the contract, people would be discouraged from becoming officers. Yet there is no objective data to support this statement . Moreover, the underlying logic of such a claim belies the effectiveness of the provisions: police officers should not be allowed to act with impunity in order to encourage others to become officers. If such provisions are necessary, one must wonder what kinds of individuals are being recruited. Police officers—or any other type of public servant—averse to liability for misconduct are exactly the type of people who should be discouraged from becoming officers.

The Chicago Police Department’s CBA contains a “Bill of Rights,” and Article Six details a number of “super due process” terms. These “super due process” terms shield officers from the routine types of investigations experienced by a normal citizen when he or she has harmed another person. According to the FOP president, such provisions are necessary because “of­ficers’ lives are on the line” and because “false and unproven allegations” are often levied against them.199 Notably, however, he provided no evidence that police face a high risk of “false and unproven allegations.” Importantly, Illinois also has codified super due process provisions within the “Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act.”200 The following are some of the more notable provisions contained in both the CBA and state law.201

Interview procedures

Prior to an officer’s interview with the IPRA, he must be provided infor­mation about the lead and secondary interviewers, as well as anyone else that may be present.202 Once the interview starts, it is expected that only one interviewer will question the officer at a time.203 If the second interviewer has questions, he is expected to wait until the other interviewer has finished. No more than two parties from the IPRA or IAD may be present during the questioning unless authorized by the officer.204 In contrast, there is no limit on how many parties may be present to support the interviewee. For example, when the officer who shot Jamaal Moore appeared for her IPRA interview a year after the shooting, she was accompanied by an entourage of lawyers and union representatives.205 This interview procedure minimizes the stress on the officer while permitting unlimited administrative support, in sharp contrast to routine police interrogations of criminal suspects.

Content disclosure

The CBA makes it easy for officers to craft a story prior to their inter­rogation by requiring that officers be provided with, in writing, the nature of the complaint against them, as well as the names of all complainants.206 In certain ways, this provision almost explicitly provides officers with an opportunity to lie. Sections L and M of the CBA require that an officer must be given a “copy of the portion of any official report that purportedly sum­marizes his statement before the interrogation.”207 If there is video evidence of the reported incident, the investigating agency has the option to present it to the officer. However, if the officer has not been allowed to watch the video prior to giving his statement, he cannot later be held liable for making a statement that contradicts the recording.208 The only way an officer can be held liable is if he was first provided with an opportunity to “clarify and amend” his original statement after he is shown the video or audio evidence and if his statement is “material to the incident under investigation.”209 Noth­ing about this provision bars an officer from clarifying and amending his original statement to be consistent with the actual evidence. This does not mean the officer will necessarily admit fault. It only means that his narrative will be less obviously false. In this way, officers are implicitly encouraged to contradict themselves in order to bolster their credibility in an internal misconduct investigation.

Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are afforded no such protection during criminal investigations. Once a citizen makes an inculpatory statement, it cannot be changed later on to accord with other evidence. To the contrary, the contradictions and video evidence will be used against that person, barring, perhaps, a constitutional violation. The same should be true with internal po­lice misconduct investigations. The pertinent issue should always be whether misconduct occurred, not whether the officer was given an opportunity to see any definitive evidence against him which could undermine his version of events. Furthermore, if an officer lies there is no legitimate reason for not holding him accountable. Interestingly, if a citizen makes a sworn statement to the IPRA about officer misconduct there is no “clarify and amend” provision to protect him or her before the IPRA. In this scenario, if the IPRA suspects that the statement is untruthful it is turned over to a State’s Attorney.

Both the “clarify and amend” provision and the prohibition on holding officers accountable for lying need to be repealed. They serve no benefit other than to shield culpable and untrustworthy officers. Further, they fortify the wall of silence because, as with the lack of accountability for lawsuits for which officers do not pay out of pocket, a lack of accountability for making false statements only incentivizes officers to be untruthful.


In 2011, Chicago Police officers were granted the privilege of a twenty-four-hour cooling off period from their involvement with a shooting until they must speak to IPRA investigators.210 Officers also are only interviewed after a “proper sleep cycle,” and during a “reasonable time.” Preferably, interviews will happen only when officers are already scheduled to be on duty and during daylight hours.211 Again, citizens are hardly afforded the same protections. Officers should be required to give at least a preliminary statement immediately after a use of force allegation is made.

In fairness, psychological research has shown that memory impairments during the first twenty-four hours following a shooting may result in less accurate statements than if officers are given that time to process the event and get some sleep.212 On the other hand, this is a luxury that is never af­forded ordinary citizens. And, unfortunately, the twenty-four hour period allows officers to coordinate stories with each other, destroy evidence, and intimidate witnesses. These are all issues that were seen to some degree in the Abbate and McDonald cases. In both cases, officers who had information about what occurred stayed mum or tried to change evidence.213

Interrogation “recesses” are also part of the super due process afforded to officers. The CBA calls for “reasonable interruptions permitted for personal necessities,” which include telephone calls—plural.214 The reason that police officers immediately separate suspects and do not allow them to freely use cellphones is to keep them from manipulating the narrative surrounding an event. For the same reasons, police officers should not be allowed to take breaks to potentially call other witnesses to corroborate their stories.


One major way that the CBA impacts police discipline is by its arbitration provision. Officers facing discipline are permitted to have disciplinary recom­mendations reviewed by an independent arbiter. If the officer so chooses, he may go in front of an arbitrator to present both a written and oral argument to argue against a disciplinary finding for a suspension. This means that (1) the IPRA, IAD, or CPD has already recommended discipline, which was (2) reviewed by the superintendent and approved, and, finally, (3) reviewed by yet another party, the arbitrator. If the city loses in arbitration, it is responsible for paying the costs of the arbitration.215 In other words, citizens pay when officers want to challenge even low-level disciplinary action, such as one-to ten-day suspensions. As Northwestern University professor Max Schanzen­bach recognized, “The incentives of the chief of police on down are further dampened by the knowledge that anything they do can be undone easily in arbitration … [s]o they have these cops well known to have numerous citizen complaints and settlements paid out for them, but they’re not dismissed from the force.”216 The remedies available to an officer only become more extensive as a suspension period increases or when separation is recommended.

Destruction of misconduct records 

The issue of records destruction is currently being litigated.221 In 2012, the FOP learned that CPD had police officers’ records dating back to the late 1960s, in violation of the CBA. The FOP sued when the CPD refused its request to destroy the records.222 The outcome of the case is significant, as it may affect an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the CPD.223 Moreover, a ruling in favor of the FOP may thwart future efforts to create an early intervention system that aims to spot troublesome officers based on their disciplinary history as well as exoneration efforts for those citizens wrongfully convicted due to police misconduct.

As former federal prosecutor Michael Muller said, “true reform will only come when the department and city investigate their officers as thoroughly as the people they shoot.”224 It is critical that the super due process provisions listed above are eliminated when the FOP CBA contract is up for negotia­tion in 2017. These super due process provisions serve to cripple attempts at thoroughly and accurately investigating police misconduct. Lastly, if the provisions remain, it is unlikely that any agency replacing the IPRA will have any more success in reforming the Chicago Police Department.

Breaking the cycle: Necessary reforms

The authority that is responsible for disciplining police officers needs to be truly independent and to have the power to actually discipline, not just give recommendations that can be overturned. Although the IPRA makes disciplinary recommendations, these recommendations can be vetoed by both the Police Superintendent and the Police Board.225 These multiple lev­els of review, including arbitration, of the IPRA’s recommendations render the agency impotent. If a police officer has a complaint sustained against him and the IPRA decides he should be disciplined, it could be a long time before punishment—if there is any—is actually imposed. This dilutes the deterrent effect that punishment serves. Police officers who misbehave need to be disciplined as soon after the offense as possible and should not have the ability to waste time and taxpayer money through the invocation of an unnecessarily lengthy appeals process.

Holding Officers Accountable

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to holding police accountable is the CBA. Without a doubt, it needs to be significantly changed when it expires next year.226 Furthermore, the contract must be made available to the public before becoming finalized, and the public must be provided an opportunity to give feedback. Most people have not read the CBA and, prior to the McDonald case, few knew of its many protective provisions. A policy should be instituted wherein the public elects a body of people to represent the interests of the citizenry, which will be given a seat at the negotiation table. At the begin­ning of each contract term, new representatives of this citizen review board should be elected in order to avoid forming too close relations with the FOP.

Another CBA change that could be useful was proposed by Alderman Howard Brookins, who suggested that the contract should contain a risk management clause that allows for the termination of officers who exhibit patterns of misconduct.227 In response, Dean Angelo, FOP president, argued that such a provision would discourage people from pursuing a career in law enforcement, a “job less and less people want.”228 According to the most recent data, however, many people still seek such a career—more than 14,000 applied for the city’s last entrance exam, which ended in January of 2016.229 More importantly, firing officers who repeatedly abuse the citizenry is simply good public policy. Officers are not put into the powerful positions they hold merely to lower the unemployment rate—they exist to provide a public service. If an officer is repeatedly harming citizens, that officer is no longer serving their intended purpose.

Abolish the Sworn Affidavit Requirement

It is crucial that citizens who want to file a complaint against police officers not be required to sign a sworn affidavit. The affidavit requirement, which is required by both Illinois law and the CBA agreement, has caused nearly 40 percent of IPRA investigations to be closed without proper review.230 Although the IPRA’s Chief Administrator can set aside the affidavit requirement, the Police Accountability Task Force, appointed by Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the McDonald shooting, found that the Chief Administrator rarely did so.231 The Task Force recommended that the affidavit requirement be repealed.232 In response to this recommendation, the Subcommittee on Police Profes­sionalism is reviewing a senate bill proposing that the affidavit requirement be removed from the Police Officers’ Disciplinary Act. In the event that the requirement is abolished, the FOP will have to remove that provision from the CBA. The removal from the CBA should be a top concern for city council members during the next round of contract negotiations.

Sworn affidavit requirements serve as an unnecessary burden on complain­ants who may not wish to sign an affidavit for many valid reasons. Perhaps the most obvious is that complaints filed with the IPRA are about police misconduct, which can rightly cause fear of retaliation—by either the police officer involved or his peers. Another source of retaliation might come from the IPRA and the prosecutors’ office. When the IPRA instituted a policy of investigating the sworn affidavits of complaints they deemed “unfounded,” they warned that such complaints would be investigated by their legal unit and, if fabrication or fraud was found, prosecuted. The threat of criminal charges, particularly amongst a group that may at the time of filing a complaint feel especially mistrustful of police, likely serves as a chilling effect. The benefits of a sworn affidavit—to deter false complaints­—are undeniably outweighed by the costs. That is, not addressing legitimate complaints of misconduct. Other cities with police accountability agencies do not have sworn affidavit requirements and have not reported an influx of false complaints.233 In Seattle, for example, not only is there no sworn affidavit requirement, but citizens are also permitted to file complaints anonymously.234 In contrast, Chicago’s CBA prohibits anonymous complaints except for those individuals alleging a criminal code violation of either state or federal law.235 Abolishing the sworn affidavit requirement and adopting a model that is similar to the one used in Seattle would be an important step in the right direction.

Video Publishing Guidelines

Videos of officer misconduct should be released within fourteen days. It should not take a judge’s order and more than a year for Chicago to release similar videos, as is often the case in Chicago. By comparison, in Cincinnati and Seattle, law enforcement agencies release videos of public encounters with police within 24–48 hours.236 Fourteen days is a leisurely pace when juxtaposed with other major U.S. cities such as these.

Early Intervention Systems & Intolerance for Misconduct

Officers with patterns of misconduct should be fired. It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of police officers comprise approximately one-third of police misconduct lawsuits.237 As discussed above, such lawsuits cost Chicago taxpayers millions every year. More egregious than the economic cost is that, often, officers with a significant number of complaints on their record are never disciplined. Repeat offenders should be closely monitored. In addition, officers who  protect such wrongdoers should also be disciplined for their complicity. Staying silent or, worse, outright lying should result in immediate discipline.238 Unfortunately, the historical pattern reveals that officers are extremely fearful of being ostracized by their fellow officers. It should be made clear to officers that cooperation with investigations into of­ficer misconduct is for the health of the entire community, while perpetuating the blue wall of silence will be punished.

The next iteration of a police oversight agency will need to begin keeping a detailed account of past misconduct, in order to ensure that repeat offend­ers are being disciplined accordingly.  To this end, the CBA provision that requires the destruction of disciplinary records within five years must be abolished. The new oversight agency must be required to include the identi­ties of police officers when it publishes its quarterly and annual reports. The agency should also be required to include in its reports both its sustained and unsustained findings. There is no legitimate reason for secrecy about such findings. The IPRA, as well as whatever agency comes after it, should be releasing summaries for all of its findings—including those that are deemed “unfounded”—because it is the officers that the IPRA has not held liable who have turned out to be some of the worst offenders in the police department.

The IPRA must also be held more accountable for its effectiveness in curbing police misconduct. Any oversight agency’s work should be reviewable by the public and independently audited. The auditor should be elected by the public and subject to a term limit to avoid becoming too closely acquainted with the people it monitors, which is one of the (many) reasons that police department internal affairs divisions have become such notorious failures.


At the beginning of the 1960s, Chicago was recovering from the Summer­dale Scandal. Summerdale brought with it changes in policing that included the introduction of what is currently known as the Bureau of Internal Af­fairs. Then, throughout the 1970s, newspaper reports of police brutality and a federal lawsuit led to the creation of the Office of Professional Standards. The numerous scandals that took place during its thirty-three-year life-span—including torture at Area Two, a group of thugs led by Jerome Finnigan sowing chaos primarily on the city’s south side, and, finally, the beating of a bartender by a cop easily twice her size—shuttered that agency, at least in name, to make room for the Independent Police Review Authority. Today, Chicago is again at the stage of the police misconduct cycle where citizens are promised reforms and city officials are forced to make at least some changes. Just like Timothy O’Connor after Summerdale, Matt Rodriguez in 1997,239 and Philip Cline after Abbate, Chicago’s current police scandal has forced the most recent superintendent, Garry McCarthy, to “resign.” With McCarthy’s resignation, Chicagoans saw yet another mayor borrowing from what Craig Futterman called a “familiar playbook.”240 “After each and every one of these scandals, we’ve never had the political courage to address the underlying issues.”241 However, we can start now. If Chicago is ever going to improve policing, merely throwing big names under the bus as a sort of reform-window-dressing will not be successful. The police abuse cycle de­scribed above has established as much.

“Today we stand together as a city to try and right those wrongs,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised Chicagoans, “and to bring this dark chapter of Chicago’s history to a close.”242 This was during a speech on April 14, 2015, in which he discussed the $5.5 million in reparations the city decided to pay to victims of the Area Two torture team.243 The message’s hopeful language was rightly met with skepticism by residents, who have heard the same rhetoric before. And indeed, one day later, another $5 million was promised to the family of Laquan McDonald for the teen’s unjustified murder. The following week, Dante Servin—the officer who shot and killed Rekia Boyd, an innocent black woman, by recklessly firing a gun over his shoulder—was acquitted.244 The mayor’s romanticisms about closing dark chapters are not enough; we clearly need to burn the whole book and start afresh.

Reforming the Chicago Police Department will not be an easy task. The City has been plagued with various forms of misconduct throughout its history, which dates back to the 1800s. It would be foolish to suggest that merely implementing the recommendations contained in this article would cure problems that have been pervasive for decades upon decades. Never­theless, it is important to make continued reforms. Reform must begin with agencies currently pretending to hold officers accountable for misbehavior. The IPRA, for instance, has been accused of being far too lenient in ad­dressing police wrongdoing. Other agencies, such as the Bureau of Internal Affairs, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chicago Police Department, and the Police Board are all responsible for their ineffectuality as well. If the agencies tasked with handling the so-called “bad apples” chopped down the rotten apple tree, it would instill a feeling in citizens that they can begin to trust the system. Moreover, the public must play a central role in reforming the way such agencies operate and the process of weighing other alternative avenues for reform as well.



  1. Carol Marin & Don Mosely, Judge Orders Release of Video Showing Shooting Death of Chicago Teen, NBC Chicago (Dec. 17, 2015),; Dash-Cam Video Released Showing Laquan McDonald’s Fatal Shooting, NBC Chicago (Dec. 17, 2015),
  2. Brandon Smith, a journalist, filed a lawsuit after his Freedom of Information Act request was denied by the Chicago Police Department. On November 19, 2015, Judge Franklin Valderrama gave the City until November 25th to release the footage. See Sam Levine, Chicago Police Really Didn’t Want to Release Video of a Cop Shooting Laquan McDonald 16 Times, The Huffington Post (Nov. 25, 2015), [hereinafter Levine, Chicago Police].
  3. Fraternal Order of Police spokesperson Pat Camden said that McDonald lunged at one of the officers with the knife, which is what led Van Dyke to shoot him. See Teen Shot, Killed by Police Officer on Chicago’s Southwest Side, NBC Chicago (Oct. 21, 2014),
  4. Jason Meisner, The Lingering Questions in Laquan McDonald Shooting Case, Video, Chic. Trib. (Dec. 5, 2015),
  5. See Levine, Chicago Police, supra note 3.
  6. The family had not filed a lawsuit at the time of the settlement. Id.
  7. Periodicvideos, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton on Proposed $5 Million Settlement, Chic. Trib. (Apr. 13, 2015),
  8. See Levine, Chicago Police, supra note 3. See also People’s Factual Proffer in Support of Setting Bond, People of the State of Illinois v. Jason Van Dyke, No. 15-127823, (Ill. Cir. Ct. Nov. 24, 2015), available at Van Dyke was suspended without pay from the Chicago Police Department. He was later hired by the Fraternal Order of Police as a janitor, which is the position he currently holds while awaiting the commencement of his murder trial. See Catherine Thorbecke, Chicago Police Officer Charged with Murder of Teen Laquan McDonald Hired by Police Union, ABC News (Mar. 31, 2016),
  9. Whet Moser, What Happened the Last Time a Chicago Cop was Charged with Murder, Chic. Magazine (Nov. 24, 2015),
  10. Stacy St. Clair, Jeff Coen, & Todd Lighty, Officers in Laquan McDonald Shooting Taken Off Streets—14 Months Later, Chic. Trib. (Jan. 22, 2016), (CPD will not state exactly when the officers were put on administrative duty).
  11. See, e.g., John Kass, If Police Shooting Video Had Been Released Sooner, Would Emanuel Be Mayor?, Chic. Trib. (Nov. 26, 2015),
  12. Eugene Scott, Protestor Calls for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation at Mayors Conference, CNN (Jan. 20, 2016),; Dan Hyman, Meet the Man Trying to Take Down Rahm Emanuel, Rolling Stone (Jan. 7, 2016),; Sarah Schulte, Rahm Emanuel’s Approval Rating Continues to Plummet, New Poll Says, ABC 7 News Chicago (May 9, 2016),
  13. David A. Graham, Two Questions About Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Violence, The Atlantic (Jan. 14, 2016),
  14. Rahm Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel Op-ed: Next Steps on Our Road to Reform, Chic. Trib. (May 13, 2016), (The plan for reform is supposed to be unveiled at a City Council meeting to be held on June 22, 2016. He has promised a new police oversight agency that will itself be overseen by various groups, but the details of what changes will take place are vague at the moment.).
  15. When the Summerdale Scandal was discovered, one citizen wrote the following to the Daily Defender newspaper: “It makes me laugh when I see where the Mayor, officials and officers are so shocked and surprised about the police scandal when every man, every woman and every child knows about our police department. Even other cities know about the reputation of the Chicago police.. . . Sure, there are some good police officers here, but very few honest ones.” Earl King, The People Speak: Screen More Cops, Daily Defender, Feb. 10, 1960, at A11.
  16. The group burglarized a jewelry store, furniture store, tavern, shoe store, tire and auto repair place, marine supply store, and more. Seven policemen—Frank Faraci, Al Karras, Sol Karras, Alan Brinn, Henry Mulea, Patrick Groark, Jr., and Alan Clements—would meet with Richard Morrison on a nightly basis to discuss the next location they wanted him to burgle. The eighth cop, Peter Beeftink, was considered “dumb” and, therefore, was not involved in any of their planning sessions. Then, they would tip off police officers from the Detective’s North Side Bureau on where to find Morrison. Morrison would be forced to give money to the detectives to avoid burglary charges, and then the detectives would split the extortion money with the Summerdale policemen. Richard C. Lindberg, To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal 297-300, 302 (Praeger, 1st ed. 1991) [herein­after Lindberg, To Serve and Collect]. Note: Faraci and Groark had previously been reprimanded and suspended for giving their weapons to another robber. Id. at 303.
  17. Id. at 300.
  18. Jury to Hear Burglar Who Triggered Cop Scandal, Daily Defender (Feb. 9, 1960), at A11; see also Lindberg, To Serve and Collect, supra note 19, at 297-300.
  19. Lindberg, To Serve and Collect, supra note 19, at 302.
  20. Id. at 304.
  21. Id.
  22. Id. at 305.
  23. Id. (“I should have asked him why he wasn’t running around checking on his policemen at night instead of sitting home watching TV,” said Daley.).
  24. Id. (O’Connor has been quoted as saying, “Somebody has to be the sucker and it could be me.”).
  25. In reality, McCarthy was fired. David A. Graham, The Firing of Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy, The Atlantic (Dec. 1, 2015),
  26. James Conlisk, Jr. (1967-1973) resigned at a time when Chicago police officers were being accused of extortion; Matt Rodriguez (1992-1997) resigned amid corruption and brutality allegations; Philip Cline (2003-2007) resigned in part due to the Anthony Abbate bartender beating and code of silence scandal. Andrew Fan, Many Superintendents Have Tried to Reform the Chicago Police (TIMELINE), DNAinfo (Dec. 18, 2015, 8:40 AM),
  27. Lindberg, To Serve and Collect, supra note 19, at 307.
  28. Robert Wiedrich, Orlando W. Wilson Looks Back on His 7 Years of Achievement, Chic. Trib., June 18, 1967, § 1, at 1, available at; Inside the CPD, History, Chicago Police Department, (last visited Mar. 15, 2016).
  29. Prior to this change, squad cars were black and white with blue mars; now, the squad cars are blue and white with red mars lights. Inside the CPD, History, Chicago Police Department (last visited Mar. 15, 2016),
  30. Id.
  31. Lindberg, To Serve and Collect, supra note 19, at 310.
  32. Id. at 311 (“Wilson’s mandate to these agencies was simple: end corruption by whatever means necessary.”).
  33. See, e.g., Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2016) (Any allegations that don’t fall within IPRA’s jurisdiction are re­ferred to the Chicago Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. Issues like “criminal misconduct, operational violations, substance abuse, and off-duty incidents that warrant department oversight” would likely fall under the IAD’s jurisdiction. Depending on the allegations in the complaint, it may simply be forwarded over to the employee’s immedi­ate supervisor. This is especially likely if the complaint will lead to “less serious conse­quences.” Otherwise, it stays with IAD for investigation, where an investigator is supposed to contact the complainant and witnesses, collect relevant evidence, and interview the accused officer. Notably, IAD is wholly a part of the police department, which means that serious complaints like excessive force and illegal arrest are being investigated within the department. This kind of internal investigation has long been criticized by scholars and citizens alike as leading to biased results in favor of police officers.).
  34. Lindberg, To Serve and Collect, supra note 19, at 311.
  35. Kenan Heise, J.B. Conlisk, Superintendent of Police During Stormy ‘60s, Chic. Trib., Oct. 2, 1984, § 2, at 6, available at
  36. Haynes Johnson, 1968 Democratic Convention: The Bosses Strike Back, Smithsonian Magazine (Aug. 2008),; Ron Briley, Democratic National Convention, in 3 Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclo­pedia 1022-23 (Steven L. Danver ed., ABC-CLIO, 2011) [hereinafter Briley, Revolts].
  37. Briley, Revolts, supra note 36, at 1022-23; William F. Jasper, Recreating Riots, New American (Aug. 31, 2008), (Additionally, riots and demonstrations nationwide led to more than 50 deaths in 1968.).
  38. James Coates, Riots Follow Killing of Martin Luther King Jr., Chic. Trib., (last visited June 16, 2016).
  39. E.g., Mayor Richard J. Daley’s order for police to “‘shoot to kill’ suspected arsonists and to ‘shoot to maim’ suspected looters.” 4 Int’l Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 369-72 (William A. Darity ed., 2nd ed. 2008); see also Heise, supra note 38.
  40. Frank Kusch, Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention (2008).
  41. Id.
  42. Some protestors, especially those from out of town, were dissuaded by Daley’s firm hand admonishing dissent, were dissuaded from coming to Chicago, but many others were not. Frank Reuven, Chicago: A Post-Mortem, in American Decades Primary Sources: 1960-1969, 412-16 (Cynthia Rose ed., 2004).
  43. Briley, Revolts,supra note 36, at 1009-1017; Mark Ebner & Lloyd DeGrane. Guns ‘n dai­sies, Spy Magazine 10, no. 5: 56. (1996), MasterFILE Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2016).
  44. Kusch, supra note 43, at 94.
  45. Briley, Revolts, supra note 36, at 1009-17.
  46. Id.
  47. Nora Sayre, On the Battlefield, NewStatesman (May 22, 2008), http://www.newstates­ (One reporter writes, “Then [a nice little old lady] and I were suddenly hurled against the wall when 100 policemen seized their blue wooden barricades to ram the crowd (mainly onlookers and press) against the building with such force that many next to me, including the old lady, were thrust through plate-glass windows. People sobbed with pain as their ribs snapped from being crushed against each other. Soon a line of stick-whipping cops swung in on us. Voiceless from gas, I feebly waved my credentials, and the warrior who was about to hit me said: ‘Oops, press.’ He let me limp into the hotel, where people were being pummeled into the red carpet, while free Pepsi was offered on the sidelines.”); see also Jules Witcover, From the Press and Chicago: the Truth Hurt, 7 Columbia Journalism Rev. 5 (1968).
  48. Briley, Revolts, supra note 36, at 1022-23.
  49. Ron Grossman, For Five Days and Nights in August 1968, Chicago was a War Zone, Chic. Trib. (Apr. 29, 2012), (Walker was the director of the Chicago Crime Commission).
  50. Id. (Walker “called the police response ‘unrestrained and indiscriminate’ and said it was often inflicted ‘upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat.’”).
  51. Id. See also Heise, supra note 35 (recalling Daley issuance of an order to police “to ‘shoot to kill’ suspected arsonists and to ‘shoot to maim’ suspected looters in the rioting that followed King’s assassination”).
  52. Briley, Revolts, supra note 36, at 1022-23.
  53. Id.
  54. Robert McClory, Cop Watch, Chic. Reader (July 16, 1992),
  55. The 1960s: Government and Politics: People in the News, American Decades: 1960-1969 (Richard Layman, ed., 2001) (Black Panther Mark Clark, who was in the apartment with Hampton, was also killed.).
  56. See McClory, supra note 53.
  57. G. Flint Taylor, ‘Nothing but a Northern Lynching’: The Assassination of Fred Hampton, Huff. Post (Dec. 5, 2012), (State’s Attorney Hanrahan filed murder charges against those in the apartment who survived).
  58. Id.
  59. Id.
  60. Id. (Flint Taylor dubbed the judge part of the “Democratic machine.”).
  61. Id.
  62. Id.
  63. Police Brutality Exposed, Chic. Trib., Nov. 4, 1973, § 1, at 1, available at
  64. Id. (In one case, a man was beaten so severely by police officers who had issued him a parking ticket that he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he had a fractured jaw, broken nose, and two black eyes. Months later, the police department decided Johnson was not at fault, but the officer who beat him received only a two-day suspension nonetheless.).
  65. Robert McClory, Black Reformers Launch: Major Attack on Police Brutality, Chic. Daily Defender, Feb. 3, 1973, at 4.
  66. Id.
  67. Heise, supra note 35.
  68. William Mullen & Emmett George, Group Proposes New System: Dump IAD, Use Civilians, Cops Urged, Chic. Trib., Nov. 17, 1973, § 1, at 1, available at
  69. Exclusive Interview: IAD Failed to End Corruption: Rochford, Chic. Trib., Feb. 13, 1974, § 1, at 1, available at
  70. Phillip Wattley, Rochford Acts to Set Up New Office, Chic. Trib., Mar. 25, 1974, § 1 at 9.
  71. Id. See also Stephen Clarke, Arrested Oversight: A Comparative Analysis and Case Study of How Civilian Oversight of the Police Should Function and How it Fails, 43 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 1 (2009) (describing OPS as an example of a bottom-up civilian in-house oversight structure that is “inherently weak because it is premised on the flawed assumption that simply substituting civilians for sworn officers is enough to ensure strong oversight.”).
  72. John Conroy, House of Screams, Chic. Reader (Jan. 25, 1990), (During his trial, Wilson described being tortured with electroshock by multiple Chicago Police officers, including Jon Burge).
  73. Special Report from Gayle Shines, Chief Administrator of OPS, to LeRoy Martin, Su­perintendent of Police (Nov. 2, 1990), available at
  74. Id. at 000006.
  75. Id. at 000006, 000024. See also Report Charges Torture by Chicago Police, Austin American Statesman (Feb. 8, 1992) (the report was given to officials in November of 1990, two years before its release).
  76. G. Flint Taylor, A Long and Winding Road: The Struggle for Justice in the Chicago Police Torture Cases, People’s Law Office, (last visited June 16, 2016) (Burge was suspended in 1991 and fired in 1993).
  77. Gerald Grazier & Mary Powers, Civilian Review Board Should Monitor Cops, Chic. Sun-Times (July 26, 2006).
  78. John Conroy, Town Without Pity, Chic. Reader (Jan. 11, 1996),
  79. Fran Spielman, Black Caucus Threatens to Withhold Votes from Next Top Cop, Chic. Sun-Times (Mar. 24, 2016),
  80. Terry Wilson & Michael Ko, Hillard Denies He Has Received OPS Report on Shoot­ing, Chic. Trib. (July 4, 1999),
  81. Melvin Caldwell, Chicago Police Board Must Look Out for Citizens, Chic. Defender (Sep. 23, 2004). (Russ’s family eventually received a $9.6 million settlement).
  82. Jamie Kalven,’97 Blueprint for Reining in Rogue Cops Gathering Dust Today, Chic. Sun-Times (Jan. 1, 2007).
  83. Kim Janssen, Chicago: Firefighter Says Cops Tortured Him in Home, Daily Southtown (Nov. 2, 2006).
  84. Jerome Finnigan, Citizens Police Data Project,­gan/2235 (last visited on Sept. 2, 2016).
  85. Id.
  86. Carol Marin & Don Moseley, Jailed Former Cop Speaks Out About Murder Scandal, NBC Chicago (Mar. 20, 2012),
  87. Id.
  88. Jerome Finnigan, supra note 84. See also Marin & Moseley, supra note 86.
  89. Don Babwin, Ex-Chicago Cop Gets 12 Years in Corruption Case, Huff. Post (Sept. 8, 2011),
  90. Fran Spielman, 2003 Shooting | Was Watching CTA Fight When Killed, Chic. Sun-Times (Mar. 4, 2011); John Conroy, Killed on Camera, Chic. Reader (Apr. 19, 2007).
  91. Family of Michael Pleasance Gets $3 Million Settlement: Unarmed Man Shot by Chicago Cop, Huff. Post (Mar. 4, 2011), (the City settled with Pleasance’s family for $3 million but claimed no-fault).
  92. See, e.g., Susan Saulny, Top Chicago Police Official Resigns Amid Furor, N.Y. Times (Apr. 3, 2007),
  93. Randi Kaye & Ismael Estrada, Chicago’s Finest Under Fire for Brutality, CNN (Sept. 28, 2007), (Petrovic’s lawyer stated that Chevas had never been disciplined for the more than 50 complaints filed against him).
  94. Id. (Charges were eventually dropped against Petrovic.).
  95. Id. (OPS sent Petrovic a letter informing her that after a thorough investigation, they had determined her complaint was unfounded. Chevas eventually resigned after being caught on video fraudulently using credit cards that he had confiscated from people.).
  96. Lisa Donovan, $261K Award for Cop Beating—Attack Followed Assault Report: Teacher, Chic. Sun-Times (Mar. 5, 2009); Kaye & Estrada, supra note 93.
  97. Id.
  98. Jeff Coen, 2 Cops Held Liable in Screwdriver Assault, Chic. Trib. (Oct. 17, 2007),
  99. Id.
  100. Abdon Pallasch & Frank Main, Man Wins $4 Mil. in Case vs. Cops—Says Officers As­saulted Him with a Screwdriver, Claimed He Had Drugs, Chic. Sun-Times (Oct. 17, 2007); see also Coen, supra note 102 (Coffie received a $4 million damages award as a result of the verdict).
  101. See generally, Alleged Torture by Chicago Police Draws Call for International Investiga­tion, U.S. Newswire (Aug. 29, 2005).
  102. Annie Sweeney, Beaten Bartender’s Suit Will Feature Off-Duty Cop’s Beating Video at Upcoming Trial, Chic. Trib. (Oct. 22, 2012), (Surveillance video showed that Abbate’s tantrum had begun even before he assaulted Obrycka. He had punched one patron, thrown another on the floor, and one point flexed his muscles and shouted “Chicago Police Department!”). Only a few months after the Obrycka incident, there was another bar battery. This time, it was of four men—Barry and Aaron Gildand, Scott Lowrance, and Adam Mastrucci—at Jefferson Tap. David Heinzmann, 4 Victims Sue Cops in 2nd Taped Beating, Chic. Trib. (May 9, 2007),
  103. When asked by attorneys at trial why he did not include the details in the incident report, Masheimer gave the strange excuse that he left the information out because it was all “speculation and assumption.” Apparently the officer did not feel that looking at the video footage before dismissing it as speculation was a better idea than withholding evidentiary information. Anthony Abbate Trial: Ex-Cop Denies Coverup, Says He Got Blackout Drunk After Learning Dog Had Cancer, Huff. Post (Oct. 24, 2012),
  104. Frank Main, Bartender Beaten in 2007 Told Officers that Her Attacker was a Cop and That Incident was on Tape—but They Left Those Details Out of Their Report, Chic. Sun-Times, Feb. 2, 2012, at 2; see also Obrycka v. City of Chicago, 913 F. Supp. 2d 598 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (Obrycka’s claim that the she told the officers about the videotape was confirmed at trial when the videotape was shown to the jury.)
  105. Annie Sweeney, Bartender Testified: Cop Tossed Me ‘Like a Rag Doll’, Chic. Trib. (Oct. 30, 2012),
  106. Frank Main, supra note 104, at 2.
  107. Cop Guilty of Aggravated Battery in Bar Beating, NBC Chicago, (last visited on Oct. 10, 2016); Abbate’s Sentencing: The Case for Expanding Access to Public Records, Chicago Justice Project,
  108. The jury at Abbate’s trial found that “Abbate was part of the conspiracy to cover up the beating and that the Police Department had a widespread code of silence that emboldened Abbate to beat up Obrycka.” Annie Sweeney & Jason Meisner, Jury Finds in Favor of Bar­tender in Cop Bar Beating Case, ‘Justice was Served,’ Chic. Trib. (Nov. 14, 2012),
  109. Relatedly, in Obrycka’s 2012 civil case, the central issue presented at trial was whether the Chicago Police Department operated under a code of silence and whether there was “a widespread custom or practice that the City does not adequately investigate and/or discipline its officers.” Associated Press, Female Bartender Brutally Beaten By Drunken Off-duty Chicago Cop Awarded $850,000, N.Y. Daily News (Nov. 14, 2012),; Obrycka v. City of Chicago, 913 F. Supp. 2d 598 (N.D. Ill. 2012). Obrycka was awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages, which would be paid by the taxpayers. See Sweeney & Meisner, supra note 108.
  110. Jamie Kalven, Editorial, ’97 Blueprint for Reining in Rogue Cops Gathering Dust Today, Chic. Sun-Times, Jan. 1, 2007, at 23.
  111. Jeffrey Flicker, The Independent Police Review Authority as Successor to the OPS: Thorough, Timely Investigations with Fair Results Transparent to the Public are Works in Progress, 24 CBA Record 56 (2010).
  112. Coercion means the use of express or implied threats of violence that puts a person in immediate fear of the consequences in order to compel that person to act against his or her will.” Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-010(b) (1990).
  113. See Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015); “Verbal abuse means the use of a remark which is overtly insulting, mock­ing or belittling directed at a person based upon the actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity of that person.” Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-010(f) (1990).
  114. Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015).
  115. Id.
  116. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, chs. 2-57-100 to 2-57-110 (1990).
  117. Id.
  118. The Goldblatt building, located at 1615 W. Chicago Avenue, is owned by the City of Chicago. Quarterly Report October 1, 2011–December 31, 2011, January 17, 2012. Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015).
  119. Emails released by the Emanuel administration suggest that his top staffers were well aware of the McDonald shooting, that it was likely to be a big issue for the Mayor, and that they had met with Emanuel numerous times prior to the video’s release, which makes it likely that he was also aware of what was in the video. Jeff Coen & John Chase, Top Emanuel Aides Aware of Key Laquan McDonald Details Months Before Mayor Says He Knew, Chic. Trib. (Jan. 14, 2016),
  120. Lorenzo Davis, former IPRA Investigator, Comments at the Police Accountability Coali­tion Meeting (Mar. 9, 2016).
  121. Gordon Waldron & David Melton, A Good First Step: A Policy Statement from the Chicago Counsel of Lawyers, Chicago City Council, (last visited June 16, 2016).
  122. Monica Davey & Timothy Williams, Chicago Pays, While Few Officers Do, in Killings, N.Y. Times, Dec. 18, 2015, at A1.
  123. See Waldron & Melton, supra note 130.
  124. See Annual Report 2008-2009, Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015). IPRA’s five-step complaint process: (1) Intake: after assigning the complaint a Log Number, IPRA retains those within its jurisdiction and forwards the rest to the CPD’s Internal Affairs Division. (2) Interview: for the complaints it retains, IPRA interview the complainant in detail. (2a) Sworn Affidavit Requirement: police officers may not be interviewed about the conduct in the complaint unless the complainant has signed a sworn affidavit. (3) Investigation: an IPRA investigator tries to obtain statements from witnesses and to gather physical evidence. If necessary, it can request DNA or fingerprint analysis. (4) Conclusion: the investigator creates a final report about his/her findings and the investigative file is forwarded to CPD for review. IPRA’s findings will fall into one of the following categories: (4a) Sustained: there is sufficient evidence to justify a disciplinary action. (4b) Not Sustained: there is not enough evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations. (4c) Unfounded: “the allegation is false or not factual”(4d) Exonerated: the accused’s action was lawful and proper. (4e) No Affidavit: no witness to the misconduct provided a sworn statement and no exception to the affidavit requirement was warranted. (5) Review: if the Police Superintendent does not agree with IPRA’s disciplinary recommendations, he must submit his disagreement in writing. If he approves, the officer can challenge the decision in an appeal.
  125. Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015).
  126. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-050 (1990).
  127. The investigation should be concluded within six months. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-070 (1990).
  128. IPRA is supposed to conclude its investigations within six months. If the investigation cannot be completed within six months, IPRA is supposed to notify the mayor’s office, city council committee on public safety, the complainant, and the employee listed in the complaint detailing why the investigation is still ongoing. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-060 (1990).
  129. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-060 (1990).
  130. See Chicago Police Board, City of Chicago, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015) (The Police Board, which consists of nine people ap­pointed by the Mayor, claims to be an “independent civilian body that oversees certain activities of the Chicago Police Department.”).
  131. For example, between March 2014 and March 2015, Superintendent McCarthy’s request that twenty-five officers be fired was grossly unsuccessful when his requests went before the police board, which decided to only fire seven officers. Fran Spielman, Emanuel Con­tinues Shakeup of Chicago Police Board, Chic. Sun Times (Jul. 5, 2015),
  132. City of Chicago, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015) (additionally, it “holds monthly public meetings, nominates candidates for the police superintendent position that are then presented to the mayor, and adopts the ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the governance of the police department”); Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-57-060 (c) (1990).
  133. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, ch. 2-84-030 (1990).
  134. See Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act, 50 ILCS 725/3.8(b): “Anyone filing a complaint against a sworn peace officer must have the complaint supported by a sworn affidavit. Any complaint, having been supported by a sworn affidavit, and having been found, in total or in part, to contain knowingly false material information, shall be pre­sented to the appropriate State’s Attorney for a determination of prosecution.”
  135. 6,230 total complaints from 2008 to 2015 out of 19,957 total closed cases.
  136. See Annual Report 2008-2009, supra note 133 (“In August, the Independent Police Review Authority.. . started examining a ‘handful’ of citizen complaints investigators believed were false.” Additionally, IPRA staff are expected to be on alert and to notify the Legal Unit if they come across a file that indicates the affiant was not completely truthful. Frank Main, City Going After False Complaints About Cops, Chic. Sun-Times (Oct. 30, 2009)).
  137. See Davis, supra note 129 (Davis stated that “gangbangers, drug dealers don’t file com­plaints … as a rule.” In addition, he stated, even if they do file complaints, the fact that they’re engaged in criminal activities does not make their complaints illegitimate.).
  138. Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code of Chicago Ordinance, § 1-22-010, et seq. (1990).
  139. Those found guilty could also be liable for up to three times the amount of any damages the City sustained due to the complaint.
  140. Scott M. Ando, 2015 Budget Statement to the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations, Independent Police Review Authority (Oct. 29, 2014),­get_Hearing_Statements_MBE_WBE_Org/056_Statement_MBE_WBE_Org_2015.pdf.
  141. Starting with the fourth quarter of 2009 and through the third quarter of 2010, IPRA took in 9,643 complaints. It referred 6,576 to IAD. It closed 2,882, of which only forty-nine were sustained. During the 4th quarter of 2010 through the 3rd quarter of 2011, IPRA ac­cepted 8,656 complaints. Of the 2,888 investigations that IPRA closed, it sustained only 65. From the fourth quarter of 2011 through the third quarter of 2012, IPRA accepted 8,452 complaints. Of the 2,688 that it closed, it sustained 105. From January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012, IPRA closed a total of 2853 cases and, of those, sustained 111. From January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013, IPRA closed a total of 2,501 cases and, of those, sustained 113. From January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014, IPRA closed a total of 2,250 cases and, of those, sustained 126. See Quarterly Reports, Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015).
  142. “A Log Number is considered closed when IPRA completes its work on the matter, regardless of whether the Police Department is still processing the results.” Quarterly Report, October 1, 2008—December 31, 2008, January 15, 2009, Independent Police Review Authority, (last visited Feb. 18, 2015).
  143. Id.; Annual Report 2008-2009, supra note 133.
  144. Annual Report 2008-2009, supra note 133.
  145. A Huffington Post analysis of data released by the Invisible Institute found that the sustained rate was even lower when the complainant was black. Between 2011 and 2015, 1.6% of complaints filled by black people were sustained. Shane Shifflett, Alissa Scheller, et al., Police Abuse Complaints by Black Chicagoans Dismissed Nearly 99 Percent Of the Time, The Huffington Post (Dec. 7, 2015),
  146. Sarah Macaraeg, How the “Gold Standard” of Police Accountability Fails Civilians by Design, Truthout (Apr. 19, 2015),
  147. Who Watches the Watchmen? Police Oversight in Chicago, Community Renewal Society (Feb. 2016),
  148. Andrew Schroedter, Police Misconduct Bill: $500M, Daily Southtown, Apr. 6, 2014, at 41.
  149. $26 million in 2005; $29.4 million in 2006; $40.6 million in 2007; $89.7 million in 2008; $47.5 million in 2009; $61.4 million in 2010; $54.7 million in 2011; $58.7 million in 2012; $96.1 million in 2013; $65.5 million in 2014; and $40.5 million. Andrew Schroedter , Chicago Police Misconduct—A Rising Financial Toll, BGA (Jan. 31, 2016),–-a-rising-financial-toll.
  150. Frank Main & Annie Sweeney, Mistakes Cost City, Not Cops—Few Officers Face Firing or Serious Discipline, Chic. Sun-Times, Nov. 18, 2007, at A10.
  151. Id.
  152. Tom Schuba, City Council Authorizes $6.5 Million in Police Misconduct Settlements, NBC Chicago (Apr. 13, 2016), ($4.95 million is for the family of Philip Coleman, a University of Chicago graduate with no criminal history, who was tasered and assaulted after being arrested while having a mental break­down, for which his father begged police to bring Coleman to a hospital. The rest of the settlement money is going to the family of Justin Cook, an asthmatic who died after police refused to help him with his inhaler after a footchase; officers allegedly used the inhaler to spray into the air instead.).
  153. Keith Herrera, Citizens Police Data Project, (last visited on Feb. 18, 2015).
  154. See Schuba, supra note 163.
  155. Lou Toth, Citizens Police Data Project, (last visited on May 10, 2016).
  156. Main & Sweeney, supra note 150.
  157. David Rodriguez, Citizens Police Data Project,­guez/9465 (last visited on May 10, 2016).
  158. Police Salary, City of Chicago, (last visited on May 10, 2016).
  159. Jamie Loo, City Resolves Cop Shooting Case For $4.5M, Chic. Daily Law Bulletin (Feb. 6, 2014), available at
  160. Id.
  161. Id.
  162. Id.
  163. Id.
  164. See Police Salary, supra note 171 (They each earn $80,778 per year.).
  165. Stacy St. Clair & Jeremy Gorner, City Plans $4.1 Million Settlement in Fatal Police Shooting, Chic. Trib. (Feb. 8, 2013), [hereinafter St. Clair & Gorner, $4.1 Million Settlement].
  166. Id.
  167. Id.
  168. Stacy St. Clair & Steve Mills, No Charges Against Cop Who Shot Unarmed Man, Chic. Trib. (Nov. 6, 2013),
  169. Jeremy Gorner, Steve Mills, & Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Cop Under Scrutiny For 3 Shoot­ings, 2 Of Them Fatal, Chic. Trib. (Oct. 22, 2011),
  170. Id.
  171. Police Salary, supra note 171 (Sierra earns $83,616 per year.).
  172. St. Clair & Gorner, $4.1 Million Settlement, supra note 178.
  173. Ed Krayewski, Chicago Cop Cleared in Shooting of Unarmed Man, His Third Shooting in Six Months, City Already Settled with Family for $4 Million, (Nov. 8, 2013),
  174. Kevin Fry, Citizens Police Data Project, (last visited May 10, 2016) (Ten of the complaints filed against Fry were for use of force. Complaint data from 2003, when Fry joined the police department, until 2010 was withheld.).
  175. Lou Toth, Citizens Police Data Project, (last visited May 10, 2016) (It is possible that Toth’s complaints exceed thirteen, but data for the period of 2000-2010 was withheld. Four of the complaints were for use of excessive force.).
  176. Police Salary, supra note 171 (He is earning $83,616 per year.).
  177. Jason Meisner, Judge Negates Jury’s $3.5 Million Verdict in Chicago Police Shooting, Chic. Trib. (Dec. 14, 2015), (The jurors had asked the judge to clarify whether their answer would impact the verdict’s outcome, but the judge didn’t provide an answer. Lawyers asked the judge to reconsider her decision, and two jurors submitted affidavits saying that they did not believe Proano should have used deadly force.).
  178. Id. (The complaints included excessive force allegations; as of 2015).
  179. Id. (IPRA is supposed to clear cases within a six month period.).
  180. This code of silence has been seen repeatedly in some of Chicago’s biggest scandals. Burge, Abbate, and Van Dyke were all protected by fellow officers. Van Dyke, for example, killed McDonald in front of multiple other officers, none of which—except for an anonymous whistleblower—reported what truly happened. Instead, everyone signed off on the of­ficial version of the story, which was disproven when the dash cam video was released.
  181. Rob Arthur, How to Predict Bad Cops in Chicago, FiveThirtyEight (Dec. 15, 2015), (Van Dyke, the officer who killed Laquan McDonald, had twenty complaints against him, which included many for excessive force.).
  182. About the Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, (last visited on Feb. 29, 2016).
  183. Yana Kunichoff, How Chicago’s ‘Fraternal Order of Propaganda’ Shapes the Story of Fatal Police Shootings, Chic. Reader (Feb. 3, 2016),
  184. 2 Dead, At Least 15 Wounded in Weekend Violence, CBS Chicago (Dec. 15, 2012),; Bridget Doyle, Deanese Williams-Harris, & Liam Ford, Crowd Reacts After Robbery Suspect Shot to Death by Police on South Side, Chic. Trib. (Dec. 15, 2012),
  185. Id.
  186. Kymberly Reynolds, Citizens Police Data Project, (last visited May 10, 2016) (Kymberly Reynolds has sustained one “use of force” allegation for a 2011 case involving an off-duty officer. A 45-day suspen­sion was recommended.).
  187. See 2 Dead, supra note 184.
  188. The video footage showed four people jumping out of the car after hitting a lamppost and running away. Moore was hit by a police SUV. When a police officer lost his balance, Moore again tried to run away, but was shot. According to autopsy reports, Moore was shot in the back and the side of his pelvis. Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  189. Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  190. Id.
  191. Id (quoting Camden, “He’s got a 100-yard stare. He’s staring blankly. [He] walked up to a car and stabbed the tire of the car and kept walking.” He went on to add that McDonald lunged at police and was then shot in the chest.).
  192. Editorial Board, Editorial: A Staggering Moment for Chicago, Chic. Trib. (Nov. 24, 2015), In an email, Jeffrey Neslund, the McDonald family lawyer criticized the FOP’s practice of releasing this information. He said that there must be “accountability for the City and the Department’s role in allowing false information to be disseminated to the media via the FOP in an attempt to win public approval and falsely characterize the fatal shooting as ‘justified.’” Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  193. Mark Berman, Why Did Authorities Say Laquan McDonald Lunged At Chicago Police Of­ficers?, Wash. Post (Nov. 25, 2015), (quoting Camden, “I never talked to the officer, period. It was told to me after it was told to somebody else who was told by another person, and this was two hours after the incident … hearsay is basically what I’m putting out at that point.”).
  194. Kunichoff, supra note 199.
  195. Id.
  196. Id. (“He’s standing up there representing an official body; the public is listening to him represent the police organization, even though it’s the union. The police department and the city administration should be objecting to that; if they’re not, then they’re complicit.”).
  197. Since McDonald’s shooting, FOP president Angelo has said that Camden’s comments on the shooting were concerning and shouldn’t have been given. We will have to wait to see if this puts an end to such media influence by the FOP in the future. Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  198. 198. Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  199. Accountability, The Chicago Report (May 18, 2015),
  200. Police officers are additionally protected by a city ordinance called the “Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act,” which provides many of the same protects as those outlined in the CBA. Chicago, Ill., 50 ILCS 725 (2015), available at­tion/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=736&ChapterID=11. According to Samuel Walker, a scholar and consultant on policing practices, the bill of rights law became important to police officers after the civil rights movement became forceful about holding police accountable. “[Police officers] opposed almost every measure to improve police accountability. They still do,” he said. Emmanuel, supra note 199.
  201. Many of the provisions overlap.
  202. Agreement Between Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 and the City of Chicago, art. 6, § 6.1(C), July 1, 2012, Fraternal Order of Police, available at [hereinafter Chicago Agreement], provides:

.          Prior to an interrogation, the Officer under investigation shall be informed of the identities of: the person in charge of the investigation, the designated primary inter­rogation officer, the designated secondary interrogation officer, if any, and all persons present during the interrogation and shall be advised whether the interrogation will be audio recorded.

  1. Id. Specifically, the contract states, “The secondary interrogator will not ask any questions until the primary interrogator has finished asking questions and invites the secondary interrogator to ask questions. Generally, the secondary interrogator will ask follow-up questions for clarification purposes. The primary interrogator will not ask any questions until the secondary interrogator has finished asking questions and invites the primary interrogator to ask follow-up questions.”
  2. Id. “Unless both parties agree, no more than two members of IPRA or IAD will be present in the interview room during questioning.”
  3. According to a Reader journalist, Ruth Castelli, the woman who shot Jamaal Moore, showed up with a team of lawyers and union reps that outnumbered investigators at her IPRA interview about the shooting. In addition, she started off her interview by stating that the statement she was giving was done under duress and fear of losing her job if she refused to speak. She was interviewed by IPRA investigator Kymberly Reynolds, who was an LAPD officer in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Kunichoff, supra note 183.
  4. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at § 6.1(E) provides: “Immediately prior to the inter­rogation of an Officer under investigation, he or she shall be informed in writing of the nature of the complaint and the names of all complainants.”
  5. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 6, § 6.1(L).
  6. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 6, § 6.1(M):

.          An Officer who is not allowed to review the video or audio evidence prior to giving a statement shall not be charged with a Rule 14 violation unless the Officer has been presented with the video or audio evidence and given the opportunity to clarify and amend the Officer’s original statement. … In any event, the Employer shall not charge an Officer with a Rule 14 violation unless it has determined that: (1) the Officer will­fully made a false statement; and (2) the false statement was made about a fact that was material to the incident under investigation.”

A Rule 14 violation prohibits “[m]aking a false report, written or oral.” Rules and Regula­tions of the Chic. Police Dept. (Apr. 2015), available at

  1. Id. Section 6.1(M) provides, in part, “An Officer who is not allowed to review the video or audio evidence prior to giving a statement shall not be charged with a Rule 14 viola­tion unless the Officer has been presented with the video or audio evidence and given the opportunity to clarify and amend the Officer’s original statement.”
  2. Frank Main, Cops Now Get Cooling-Off Period After On-The-Job Shootings, Chic. Sun-Times, June 29, 2011, at 10.
  3. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 6, § 6.1(A).
  4. Alexis Artwhol, Perceptual and Memory Distortion During Officer-Involved Shootings, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (Oct. 2002),
  5. ‘Code of Silence’ Trial: Beaten Bartender Testifies Cops Tired to Bribe Her, Huff. Post (Oct. 30, 2012), (during Abbate’s civil trial, which resulted in a favorable jury verdict for the victim, Obrycka testified that officers tried to bribe her into keeping the incident secret.); Monica Davey, Officers’ Statements Differ from Video in Death of Laquan McDonald, N.Y. Times (Dec. 5, 2015), (at least five officers who witnessed Van Dyke shooting McDonald corroborated the shooter’s story, which was later disproved by the dash-cam video).
  6. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 6, § 6.1(F).
  7. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 9, § 9.8 (Expense of the Arbitrator).
  8. Adeshina Emmanuel, Chicago Police Contract Scrutinized in the Aftermath of Laquan McDonald’s Death, Chic. Reporter (Dec. 10, 2015),
  9. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 8, § 8.4 (Use and Destruction of File Material – “All disciplinary investigation files, disciplinary history card entries, IPRA and IAD disciplinary records, and any other disciplinary record or summary of such record other than records related to Police Board cases, will be destroyed five (5) years after the date of the incident or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is longer, except that not sustained files alleging criminal conduct or excessive force shall be retained for a period of seven (7) years after the date of the incident or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is long, and thereafter, cannot be used against the officer in any future proceedings in any other forum, except as specified below, unless the investigation relates to a matter which has been subject to either civil or criminal court litigation or arbitration prior to the expiration of the five-(5)-year period. . . . Reprimands and suspen­sions of one (1) to five (5) days will stay on the Officer’s disciplinary history for a period of three (3) years from the last date of suspension or date of reprimand, or five (5) years from the date of the incident, whichever is earlier.”).
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Id.
  13. Austin Berg, Chicago Police Unions are Fighting to Destroy Decades of Complaint Records, Illinois Policy (Dec. 14, 2015),
  14. Ken Hare, FOP Contract Arbitrator Says “Destroy All Records”, Chic. Defender (Jan. 20, 2016),
  15. Phil Rogers, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Announces Probe Into Chicago Police Department, NBC Chicago (Dec. 7, 2015),
  16. Main & Sweeney, supra note 150.
  17. Davey & Williams, supra note 122.
  18. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202.
  19. Adeshina Emmanuel, After Laquan McDonald’s Shooting, Chicago Targets Police Contract Protections, Mother Jones (Dec. 11, 2015), (“If you kept getting your company sued and cost them millions of dollars, you would be out of there,” said Alderman Brookins.).
  20. Id.
  21. Lorraine Swanson, Chicago Police Announce Results of Recruitment Campaign, Test Venue, Patch (Feb. 22, 2016),
  22. Id.
  23. Id.
  24. Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust Between the Chicago Police and the Communities They Serve, Police Accountability Task Force (Apr. 2016),­port_4_13_16.pdf.
  25. File a Complaint About the Seattle Police,, (last visited on Oct. 13, 2016). See also OPA Complaint Process,, (last visited on Oct. 13, 2016).
  26. Anonymous Complaint Form,, (last visited Oct. 13, 2016).
  27. Chicago Agreement, supra note 202, at art. 6, § 6.1(D) provides in part, “No anonymous complaint made against an Officer shall be made the subject of a Complaint Register in­vestigation unless the allegation is a violation of the Illinois Criminal Code, the criminal code of another state of the United States or a criminal violation of a federal statute.”
  28. Alexa Van Brunt, et al., Complaint Submitted to the United States Department of Justice Documenting the Role of the Independent Police Review Authority in Perpetuating a Code of Silence and Culture of Violence in the Chicago Police Department, at 29, available at
  29. Angela Caputo & Jeremy Gorner, Small Group of Chicago Police Costs City Millions in Settlements, Chic. Trib. (Jan. 30, 2016),
  30. An officer is charged with a rule 14 violation if s/he makes “a false report, written or oral.” This act is deemed “expressly prohibited” by the City of Chicago, but rarely enforced. See Rules and Regulations of the Chic. Police Dept. (Apr. 2015), available at http://di­
  31. Superintendent Rodriguez resigned after he was exposed for his friendship with a felon. According to Rule 47 of the police code, officers are prohibited from associating with convicted criminals. There were many other problems facing the department at that time that also could have contributed to the resignation. Pam Belluck, Top Chicago Police Official Will Retire Over Disclosure, N.Y. Times (Nov. 15, 1997),
  32. Davey & Williams, supra note 122.
  33. Id.
  34. Police Brutality in Chicago: Dark Days, The Economist (Apr. 25, 2015),
  35. The Mayor had also referred to closing the dark chapter of the Burge scandal in 2013 when a $ 12.3 million settlement was reached for Area Two torture victims. Hal Dardick & John Byrne, Mayor: ‘Sorry’ for Burge Torture Era, Chic. Trib. (Sept. 11, 2013),
  36. Police Brutality in Chicago, supra note 242.


Elizabeth J. Andonova is a criminal defense attorney in private practice in Chicago, IL. She is grateful to Professor Susan Bandes, who reviewed multiple drafts of this article and provided valuable feedback. She also thanks John Conroy, who helped spark the idea for this article, and who corresponded with her on countless occasions about its development.


  1. This is by far the worst example of legal research I have ever seen. It is so incredibly one sided and unfactual that the author should be ashamed of such childish dribble. Regurgitating proven lies is not research but somehow this simpleton seems to think so.

  2. R. Pavia, then explain why it is rubbish, why you think it’s one sided, what’s unfactual, and what’s proven lies? Did you check the sources or even lived in this city before you wrote your one sided no fact rubbish having comment?

  3. Andonova’s objective tone is best captured in her conclusion: “Reforming the Chicago Police Department will not be an easy task. The City has been plagued with various forms of misconduct throughout its history, which dates back to the 1800s. It would be foolish to suggest that merely implementing the recommendations contained in this article would cure problems that have been pervasive for decades upon decades. Never­theless, it is important to make continued reforms. “

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