Inspector General’s 2020 Statement to Chicago City Council

Madame Chair and Members of the City Council:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations and to submit the following opening statement.

During 2020, the inspector general function at the national level has come under attack prompted by executive reaction to the independence of its work. Here at home, OIG has conducted its mission work uninterrupted, albeit at times slowed by two broad exogenous factors: 1) COVID-related logistical challenges in audit and investigation records access and interviews, both internal to the City and respecting external parties; and 2) staffing reductions arising from (a) the suspension of hiring of vacancies in most areas of the office––only police oversight-related hiring was done this year––and (b) the temporary extended detailing of OIG personnel to other City departments to support COVID-19 operations, which at its peak approached 25% FTE staffing. Otherwise, our work in all realms continued unabated, consonant with the legal requirements of independence and objectivity.

Investigations. The Municipal Code limits disclosure of reports and many of the details of OIG’s disciplinary and criminal investigations. Litigation––whether criminal, civil, or administrative––further dampens the ability and prudence to discuss matters in the public domain. In 2020, OIG’s Investigations Section continues to process an increased number of complaints from the levels seen several years ago. Nevertheless, OIG has closed significantly more investigations year-to-date than at this time last year, while also reducing the number of cases opened longer than 12 months over the course of this year. The rising levels of complaints we have seen are due less, we believe, to an increase in conduct warranting investigations, and more to outreach efforts improving public awareness of the work and functions of the office that takes us into problems that would not have come to our attention in the past. As we come to the end of 2020, Investigations will be working closely with OIG’s Legal Section as part of a larger interagency collaborative effort with the Departments of Procurement Services and Aviation, which will turn the switch on the innovative Integrity Monitoring Program for the O’Hare 21 project––a prototype for major City construction projects in the future.

Audit and Program Review (APR). APR continues to generate nationally recognized government performance audits. In 2020, APR issued or will issue federal Government Accountability Office standard reports on subjects including (those still pending in italics): City Employee Performance Evaluations (DHR); Weed Cutting (DSS); Traffic Signal Planning (CDOT); Commercial Driveway Billing (CDOT); User Fees Evaluation and Setting (OBM); Water Department Overtime (DWM); Board of Elections Operations (CBOEC); City Data Portal (DoIT/AIS/MO); Juvenile Intervention Support Center (CPD/DFSS); Development of the Capital Improvement Program (OBM); Commercial and High Density Residential Recycling (DSS); Police Vehicle Maintenance (AIS); Air Pollution Inspections (CDPH); and Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Mitigation (CFD). APR has also continued its efforts to provide briefings to the Council, and to encourage and help facilitate public committee hearings, on findings and recommendations from its audit reports.

Public Safety (PS). This year, PS has matured (from start-up in mid-2018) into a highly active and public-facing oversight function. In addition to issuing a variety of recommendations to inform and improve operations, in 2020 PS issued or will issue reports on the following subjects (those still pending in italics): Post-Firearm Discharge Policy Compliance (CPD); Administrative Termination of Disciplinary Investigations (COPA); Compliance with the City’s Video Release Policy for Use-of-Force Incidents (CPD/COPA/OEMC); Management and Production of Records (CPD); Use of Predictive Risk Models (CPD); Disciplinary Processes (CPD/COPA/Police Board); and Affidavit Override Practices (CPD/COPA). PS is the OIG lead for the OIG-IMT Special Joint Inquiry on the City’s Handling of the George Floyd Demonstrations, which will result in public reports from both entities. In the first half of 2021, PS is expected to issue, among others, the following reports: Follow-Up on the “Gang Database;” Enforcement of CPD’s Rule Prohibiting False Reports; Demographic Disparities in CPD’s Use of Force; and Analysis of Settlements and Judgments Against the Department and its Members. PS is now a routine touchstone for official and public outreach, engagement, and education sessions which foster a better understanding of the reform landscape and enterprise.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Compliance (DEIC). Earlier this year, OIG consolidated operation of its Consent Decree-mandated DEI activities with the operations of the Consent Decree-required (Shakman) Hiring Oversight unit to form the DEIC Section, whose first generation work is both inward-looking––developing best in class DEI practices and culture to inform all of OIG’s work––and outward projected with primary attention to CPD practices with DEI implications. In the coming year, DEIC will publish (jointly with PS) a major review of CPD’s Probationary Police Officer Recruitment and Hiring (including equity pattern and trend analysis).

2021 Budget and Initiatives. OIG has yet to receive a final figure for its 2021 Budget. The published proposal for OIG funding includes OBM analyst placeholders for eleventh hour determinations of additional funding for which amendments will be required and which OIG has been informed is likely to change. We have also been informed that late-identified appropriations above the austerity budget level we were asked to submit should be treated as coming from one-time revenue sources. In light of that OBM guidance, we project our amendments to focus on avoiding reductions in force, restoring a couple of key vacancies, and a one-time technical infrastructure requirement to allow for expanded operation and function of OIG’s Information Portal. The Portal is developed and managed by the Center for Information Technology and Analytics (CITA), which, among its other work, has generated transparency tools of keen interest and engagement by members of this body, City officials, and especially the public. These infrastructure improvements will operationalize expansions and enhance access to and functionality of our interactive dashboards, including CPD-related dashboards respecting 911 call activity, arrests, complaint/disciplinary history, Investigative Stop Reports (which we are hopeful may relieve the City of continuing cost and expense of external monitoring and oversight), as well as procurement-related dashboards focused on M/WBE result tracking. Infrastructure improvements will also permit OIG to stand up a data-based system that will transform the City’s residency requirement into a trackable compliance system, rather than one reliant solely on one-off, labor intensive investigations. The system will be constructed to be scalable for use by sister agencies and other possible City/sister agency residency-based programs.

In 2020, this body set an important precedent in using OIG work as prompts for committee hearings to inform how to develop better policies and support improvements in operations of City programs that do more, often with less, and more equitably for the benefit of all of Chicago. We appreciate that partnership and look forward to its collaborative progression in 2021.

I look forward to answering your questions.