Urgent Recommendations on the Chicago Police Department’s Search Warrant Policies

The Public Safety section of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged by the Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) with reviewing and auditing the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) policies, practices, programs, and training with respect to constitutional policing, discipline, and use of force, and as they affect CPD’s integrity, transparency, and relationship with City residents. The Public Safety section may make recommendations to address problems or deficiencies or to make improvements in such policies, practices, programs, and training. MCC §2-56-230(d).

Accordingly, the Public Safety section has been conducting an inquiry into CPD’s execution of search warrants, focusing on the accuracy of the addresses at which they are located. That inquiry is a long-term one and remains ongoing.

In light of the urgent need to prevent serious harm to Chicagoans in the execution of search warrants at the wrong addresses, and in recognition of pressing public concern around these issues, OIG has issued preliminary findings and recommendations to CPD while the larger programmatic inquiry continues.

Specifically, OIG found that CPD’s directive on search warrants leaves gaps in CPD members’ obligations to verify and corroborate the information upon which they rely in seeking 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.

Consequently, OIG 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 execution goes wrong.

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 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.