Saturday, December 05, 2015

a system designed to fail?

Tribune |  Chicago police officers enforce a code of silence to protect one another when they shoot a citizen, giving some a sense they can do so with impunity.

Their union protects them from rigorous scrutiny, enforcing a contract that can be an impediment to tough and timely investigations.

The Independent Police Review Authority, the civilian agency meant to pierce that protection and investigate shootings of citizens by officers, is slow, overworked and, according to its many critics, biased in favor of the police.

Prosecutors, meantime, almost never bring charges against officers in police shooting cases, seeming to show a lack of enthusiasm for arresting the people they depend on to make cases — even when video, an officer's history or other circumstances raise concerns.

And the city of Chicago, which oversees that system, has a keen interest in minimizing potential scandal; indeed, it has paid victims and their families millions of dollars to prevent information from becoming public when it fears the shooting details will roil neighborhoods and cause controversy for the mayor.

In many quarters, it's common knowledge that Chicago's system of investigating shootings by officers is flawed. But the Tribune's examination of the system shows that it is flawed at so many levels — critics say, by design — as to be broken. IPRA's own statistics bear that out. Of 409 shootings since the agency's formation in September 2007 — an average of roughly one a week — only two have led to allegations against an officer being found credible, according to IPRA. Both involved off-duty officers.

Attorney Joseph Roddy, who was a police union lawyer for a quarter-century, said the IPRA figures suggest a deep problem.

"It's hard to believe," Roddy said in an interview. "Michael Jordan couldn't make 407 out of 409 shots — even from the free-throw line."

Lorenzo Davis was more blunt. Davis, a retired Chicago police commander who joined IPRA and became a supervisor, sued the agency in September after he said its chief ordered him to change his conclusions in six cases in which he found officers wrongly shot citizens.

"The public cannot trust anyone who is currently in the system," said Davis, who himself was cleared in two shootings while an officer years ago.