The Public Safety Section (PS) of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded an evaluation regarding the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) compliance with the clear and present danger reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies under the Illinois’s Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card Act (“the Act”). OIG launched this inquiry after receiving a complaint in January 2017 that expressed concern about CPD’s process of returning firearms to individuals who had threatened suicide.
The Act states,
- If a person is determined to pose a clear and present danger to himself, herself, or to others… by a law enforcement official or school administrator, then the law enforcement official or school administrator shall, within 24 hours of making the determination, notify the [Illinois State Police (ISP)] that the person poses a clear and present danger. See 430 ILCS 65/8.1(d)(2).
“Clear and present danger,” as applicable to law enforcement officials, means,
- a person who… demonstrates threatening physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions, or other behavior, as determined by a physician, clinical psychologist, qualified examiner, school administrator, or law enforcement official.” See 430 ILCS 65/1.1.
To fulfill this reporting obligation, law enforcement officials are required to complete and submit to ISP a “Person Determined to Pose a Clear and Present Danger” form each time law enforcement makes such a determination.
OIG’s evaluation determined that CPD has not operated in compliance with the clear and present danger reporting requirements under the Act. OIG identified a subset of situations in which it is highly probable that CPD members interacted with an individual posing a clear and present danger pursuant to the Act’s definition as applied to law enforcement agencies. Specifically, OIG identified 37 incidents between December 6, 2013, and April 29, 2017, in which CPD transported an individual, from whom they recovered a firearm, to a mental health facility. Of those 37 incidents, CPD reported one clear and present determination to ISP. During this period, CPD reported one other clear and present determination to ISP, regarding an incident that did not involve the transportation of an individual to a mental health facility.
The subset of 37 incidents identified by OIG does not represent the universe of all possible situations (nor can OIG calculate the total number of situations) in which CPD members interacted with an individual posing a clear and present danger. However, given the Act’s sweeping definition of “clear and present danger” (including physical and/or verbal behavior, whether suicidal or directed at another, and with no requirement that a weapon of any kind be involved) and complete lack of exceptions to law enforcement “clear and present danger” reporting requirements, OIG holds that the number of “clear and present danger” situations likely far exceeds the two reported incidents.
As a result of CPD’s noncompliance with the Act, individuals who should not be entitled to possess a firearm under federal or state law continue to exercise that legal right due to CPD’s inaction. Furthermore, without CPD reports of clear and present danger to ISP following the recovery and subsequent inventorying of a firearm, CPD may be returning firearms to individuals whose FOID Cards ISP would otherwise have revoked. In a time of tragically high gun violence in Chicago, and as part of a comprehensive crime strategy, full compliance with the Act’s reporting requirement provides CPD a key mechanism by which to prevent unnecessary gun violence and keep firearms away from those who are not legally entitled to their possession. Given the nature of its officers’ duties, specifically their interaction and engagement with individuals in active crisis and/or hostile situations, CPD holds the unique and essential position in the scheme of preventative gun violence as the assessor of clear and present danger and prompt for investigations by ISP into whether an individual should be entitled to possess a firearm. Anything less than full compliance with the Act’s law enforcement reporting requirement creates cracks through which individuals, likely to harm themselves or others with firearms, may fall.
OIG recommends that CPD institute agency directives that require CPD employees to complete and submit the “Person Determined to Pose a Clear and Present Danger” form to ISP within 24 hours after making the determination that an individual poses a clear and present danger, and ensure that all officers have access to the form during their shifts. CPD should also create relevant curricula and provide adequate training for current and new employees that includes: 1) an introduction to the FOID Card Act, with special attention paid to CPD’s reporting duties and the importance of the information being provided to ISP; 2) guidance on what constitutes clear and present danger; and 3) instruction on how to properly complete and submit the “Person Determined to Pose a Clear and Present Danger” form and identification of other necessary documentation that should be submitted to ISP along with the form.
CPD concurred with OIG’s recommendations and indicated that it has taken the following steps to bring the Department into compliance with the Act:
- Drafted and began the implementation process for a standalone directive that instructs its officers as to the reporting requirements, definition of “clear and present danger,” and process for properly reporting individuals to ISP using the “Person Determined to Pose a Clear and Present Danger” form pursuant to the Act;
- Revised existing directives to include information regarding law enforcement reporting requirements; and
- Updated the Police Academy’s “Legal Issues and Law Enforcement Response” training curricula to reflect CPD’s reporting obligations pursuant to the Act.