The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety Section has issued recommendations to inform and improve disciplinary investigations conducted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA) concerning proper training, thorough search criteria, and adequate documentation and supervisory review. With both COPA and BIA, OIG identified various recurring errors with inaccuracies in investigative logs, record searches, improperly documented complaints, and review and approval protocols.
COPA and BIA are charged with investigating, documenting, and reviewing allegations of misconduct by CPD members. COPA investigates allegations including, but not limited to, bias-based verbal abuse, domestic violence, excessive force, improper search and seizure, and firearm discharge. BIA investigates allegations including, but not limited to, criminal misconduct, operational violations, planning of drugs, residency violations, and medical roll abuse. It is imperative that both COPA and BIA have structural practices and policies and procedures in place to ensure that their investigations are complete, thorough, objective, and fair, and that the results of those investigations are consistent and transparent. In our analysis, we found that there were:
OIG recommended that both COPA and BIA provide better training for searches, maintain updated and accurate records for better resources, and have a thorough supervisory review process. In response, COPA committed to examining the modification of its Summary Report of Investigation to ensure uniformity and completeness, and to continue to build out a new case management system. BIA stated that it would consider having investigators record specific details of their searches, and would explore options for a technology-based application to allow the creation and reproduction of search lists for the purpose of supervisory review. Both agencies agreed that continuous and improved training was necessary to minimize errors and inefficiencies.
“A transparent, effective system for disciplinary investigations is imperative to the operation of an appropriately accountable police department,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “Inconsistent, incomplete, or inadequately documented disciplinary systems do not foster trust in that system, from either members of the community or members of the Department. Investigations that lack robust protocols, accurate records, and proper review are a disservice to those making misconduct complaints and to those being investigated. We therefore urge COPA and CPD to fully implement our recommendations, and we look forward to assessing their progress toward doing so.”
The full recommendations can be found on OIG’s website.