OIG Finds That the Disciplinary Grievance Procedure for Chicago Police Department Members Lacks Transparency and Consistency

The Public Safety section of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of the disciplinary grievance procedure for members of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and found that it suffers from deficits of transparency and consistency, and that there are significant shortcomings in practices and outcomes.

The disciplinary grievance procedure is complex and involves several City agencies and private parties. The procedure is governed by the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) negotiated between the City of Chicago and each of the unions representing sworn CPD members. When one of those members is found to have committed misconduct and CPD issues discipline, a member who wishes to challenge that discipline may proceed on one of three pathways: (1) a binding summary opinion (BSO), (2) arbitration, and (3) Police Board review. An accused member may also resolve a disciplinary matter by an agreed settlement. OIG reached the following analytical findings with respect to both the disciplinary process and the settlement process:  

  • Completed grievance arbitrations between November 2014 and December 2017 have been assigned to just three independent arbitrators, who operate with vast discretion and negligible substantive post-decision review.
  • The settlement process, as well as the processes for BSOs, lack public transparency.
  • Written settlement agreements do not follow a consistent format, and settlement agreements do not consistently record all basic descriptive information about cases.
  • Settlements are regularly used to resolve discipline after Sustained findings of misconduct, and these settlements regularly result in the removal of rule violations from sworn members’ records.

OIG recommended that CPD take several measures to improve transparency into and consistency in disciplinary grievances. Specifically,

  • CPD and the Department of Law (DOL) should coordinate to review BSO and arbitration decisions on an annual basis.
  • CPD and DOL should make information about disciplinary grievance procedure cases and the outcomes of BSOs, arbitrations, and settlements publicly available, in a manner which accounts for privacy and procedural protections.
  • CPD should create a public-facing resource describing the settlement process, as well as create a template to be used by all parties when drafting settlement documents.
  • CPD and DOL should make efforts to expand the pool of eligible arbitrators and consider formal procedures for assessing and evaluating arbitrators and arbitration outcomes in concluded matters.

CPD agreed with six of eight of OIG’s recommendations. DOL agreed to partially implement one recommendation and committed to considering whether one other should be raised in collective bargaining with CPD member unions. Regarding the remaining recommendations, DOL took the position that it is already in compliance with some elements, that it does not have the data available to implement others, and/or that implementation of others would violate attorney-client or attorney work product privilege.

“The availability of efficient, transparent, and consistent procedures is critical to the operation of the police disciplinary system,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “The need for clarity and transparency in police accountability systems has perhaps never been more urgent; while we appreciate CPD and DOL’s commitments to implement some of our recommendations, the City is missing other opportunities for transparency and accountability. We urge the City to implement each of our recommendations.”

The full report can be found on OIG’s 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: www.igchicago.org.