OIG Finds That Chicago’s Response to George Floyd Protests and Unrest Included Breakdowns in the Mass Arrest Process, Unfulfilled Use of Force Reporting Obligations, and Operational Structure and Policy Gaps that Crippled Accountability from the Start

The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety section conducted an inquiry into the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) response to the protests and unrest following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. OIG found that CPD was under-prepared and ill-equipped to respond to those events, and as a result, the Department’s senior leadership failed both the public and its own front-line members. The challenges in responding to large-scale protests and unrest amidst a global pandemic were daunting, but the efforts of CPD and the City to stem unrest were marked, almost without exception, by confusion and lack of coordination in the field, emanating from failures of intelligence assessment, major event planning, field communication and operation, administrative systems and, most significantly, leadership from CPD’s highest ranks.  

Following a joint fact-finding effort with the Independent Monitor overseeing the consent decree entered in Illinois v. Chicago,OIG issues a report which provides an in-depth chronology and analysis of the period from May 29 through June 7, 2020. The report aims to present, to the extent possible based on the information and material available, a comprehensive account of the facts, including the experiences of all involved parties––members of the public, CPD’s rank-and-file and command staff, and City departments, among others.

OIG reached analytical findings with respect to breakdowns and failures in three specific areas:

  • Breakdowns in CPD’s mass arrest process resulted in its failure to arrest some offenders, the unsubstantiated detention and subsequent release of some arrestees without charges, and risks to officer and arrestee safety. Prior to the protests and unrest, CPD had not trained its members on mass arrest procedures in years and did not plan for the possibility of a mass arrest incident.
  • CPD did not fulfill its reporting obligations with respect to its use of force and lacked clear and consistent policy guidance for its members on their reporting obligations. In a mass arrest context, this gave way to confusion that contributed to non-compliance. CPD also lacks an authoritative record of uses of force deployed during the protests and unrest.
  • The structure of CPD’s operational response and gaps in its relevant policies crippled accountability processes. Policy gaps led to inconsistent review of uses of force, and large numbers of Department members were deployed without body-worn cameras. Further, no systematic records were kept for where or when members were deployed; this, combined with violations of Department policies requiring members to wear identifiers on their uniforms, rendered the investigation of and accountability for misconduct challenging and, in some cases, impossible.

“Living through a pandemic, exacerbating the consequences of systemic inequities, is an exceptional test to any city, let alone one as historically challenged as Chicago. In light of the urgency of public concern and the rapidly shifting policy landscape, OIG is publishing this report with the intention that it inform corrective actions and reforms to CPD’s policies and practices,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “CPD and the City will be dealing with the negative repercussions of the shortcomings revealed here for some time. Missing reports and videos may limit or preclude accountability for people who committed crimes and CPD members who committed misconduct. OIG’s interviews with rank-and-file CPD members laid bare that, at least in some quarters, chaos and confusion in the command staff ranks struck a serious blow to the morale of front-line members who plainly felt failed by the Department, after being left to high-stakes improvisation without adequate support or guidance. And where there were out-of-policy, dangerous, and disrespectful actions by CPD members, the events of May and June 2020 may have set CPD and the City back significantly in their long-running, deeply challenged effort to foster trust with members of the community. We hope that the public accounting and specific findings offered in this report will inform the City and CPD’s efforts to reform policies and practices. We will continue to study those efforts and assess where there are needs for future inquiry and reporting.”

The full report can be found on OIG’s website.

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