Evaluation of the Use of the Affidavit Override in Disciplinary Investigations of Chicago Police Department Members

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an evaluation of the use of the affidavit override in disciplinary investigations of Chicago Police Department (CPD) members conducted by CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, CPD District and Unit accountability sergeants, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

Illinois state law and the collective bargaining agreements between the City of Chicago and the labor unions representing CPD members require that, in order to serve as the basis of a disciplinary investigation, except in certain limited exception circumstances, allegations of misconduct against a police officer must be supported by a sworn affidavit. In the absence of a sworn affidavit, the investigating agency may obtain and proceed on the basis of an affidavit override. An affidavit override is an authorization from the head of a counterpart police misconduct investigating agency to complete an investigation, without an affidavit, on the basis of there being objective, verifiable evidence to support the allegations. Examples of such evidence might include video of the incident, audio from a 911 call, global positioning systems records, or witness statements.

The override process, if used as designed, is an effective tool for ensuring that police misconduct is meaningfully investigated, while also providing an opportunity for verification of the reliability of complaints for which CPD members may be investigated. Historically, however, the process has been underused and, perhaps, poorly understood.

OIG’s evaluation produced the following findings:

  1. The majority of finalized disciplinary investigations were closed for lacking an affidavit;
  2. CPD, COPA, and IPRA (COPA’s predecessor agency) did not pursue affidavit overrides and improperly closed investigations for lacking an affidavit, including:
    a. Investigations closed for lacking an affidavit when there was objective, verifiable evidence which supported the allegations rendering them eligible for an override;
    b. Investigations closed following an insufficient preliminary investigation; and
    c. Instances in which the investigation was assigned a case status reserved for investigations closed for lacking an affidavit when the investigation was either exempt from the affidavit requirement, or another closure type was more appropriate.
  3. The investigating agencies often closed investigations associated with a civil lawsuit for lacking an affidavit, without regard to the possibility of the City potentially bearing financial costs for conduct which is never meaningfully investigated, the possibility that materials associated with a civil suit might provide sufficient basis for an override request, and that a civil suit may give rise to sworn statements that might be substituted for an otherwise required affidavit, or provide a reliable basis for obtaining an affidavit override.
  4. Investigations completed on the basis of an affidavit override result in Sustained allegations at a higher rate than do investigations completed via a signed affidavit or an exemption from the affidavit requirement.

By improving the mechanisms by which it operates, CPD and COPA can better ensure that the affidavit override process functions to lower barriers to accountability while appropriately protecting the procedural rights of CPD members. To that end, OIG recommends that CPD and COPA amend policies and improve training related to the pursuit of affidavits and use of the affidavit override.