OIG Public Safety Section Issues Urgent Recommendations on the Chicago Police Department’s Search Warrant Policies

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety section has issued recommendations from its ongoing programmatic inquiry into the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) search warrant practices, prompting immediate action to prevent serious harm to Chicagoans stemming from so-called “wrong raids” that are a matter of pressing public concern. OIG found that CPD’s current directive on search warrants leaves gaps in sworn member obligations to verify and corroborate the information they rely upon as the basis for obtaining a search warrant. Further, OIG found that the circumstances under which a CPD supervisor must initiate a disciplinary investigation following a problematic search warrant execution are too narrow. OIG therefore recommended that CPD modify its directive on search warrants to require verification and corroboration of information in all circumstances and broaden the circumstances in which supervisors must initiate an investigation to determine whether discipline is necessary and appropriate when a search warrant is erroneous in fact or execution.

In response, CPD Superintendent David Brown accepted both of OIG’s recommendations, and indicated that CPD’s policies “should be amended to require a CPD member investigate and verify the information used to substantiate a search warrant.” Superintendent Brown further stated that CPD “intends to amend its order to expand the circumstances where officers are required to open a [disciplinary] investigation.” Superintendent Brown also noted that he has formed a “Search Warrant Committee” and “will engage with the community to listen to their concerns” about CPD’s search warrant practices.

“The Public Safety section’s work on CPD’s search warrant practices and policies, focusing on the accuracy of the addresses at which they are executed, continues. Recent events, however, have compelled us to issue these urgent recommendations––stemming from and amidst the long-term programmatic inquiry––to effect substantive changes in CPD’s policies and practices to prevent serious harm to Chicagoans,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “As work proceeds, in the ongoing Public Safety section’s evaluative project and OIG’s investigative inquiry into possible misconduct by City actors related to the search warrant executed at the home of Ms. Anjanette Young and its aftermath, we are deeply committed to meaningful reform and thoroughgoing accountability.”

OIG’s recommendations and CPD’s response can be found on our website.

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: igchicago.org.