Enforcement of the Chicago Police Department’s Rule Against False Reports

As mandated by the consent decree entered in Illinois v. Chicago,the Public Safety section of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has conducted an inquiry into the enforcement of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD or the Department) Rule 14, which prohibits CPD members from “[m]aking a false report, written or oral.”[1] Alleged violations of CPD’s Rules and Regulations are usually investigated by CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA) and by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), with the most serious of police disciplinary cases being adjudicated by the Chicago Police Board.[2] All of these entities come within the scope of OIG’s inquiry into the enforcement of CPD’s rule against false reports.

The truthfulness and credibility of police officers is foundational to the fair administration of justice, and to CPD’s effectiveness as a law enforcement agency. CPD, COPA, and the Police Board have each publicly expressed the view that these qualities in CPD members are integral to their ability to perform their duties and that a member’s violation of Rule 14 poses important risks, including undermining their ability to offer testimony in criminal prosecutions arising from CPD’s arrests. Due to the severity of the impact that stems from a CPD member making a false statement or report, CPD and COPA have reported the position that separation (i.e., termination of employment) is the appropriate disciplinary penalty when a member is found to have violated Rule 14.

The objectives of OIG’s inquiry were to determine whether:

  • BIA and COPA consistently allege Rule 14 violations when a CPD member makes a false statement or a material omission;
  • Sustained allegations involving false statements consistently result in separation of the accused member from CPD;[3] and
  • Relevant agencies share information about Rule 14 violations and adverse credibility findings or negative credibility determinations.[4]

OIG found the following:

  1. Structural failures in Chicago’s police accountability system allow CPD members with Rule 14 histories to remain in positions with duties that depend upon their truthfulness and credibility.[5] CPD, COPA, and the Police Board each state a Department member’s honesty is integral to their duties and that a Rule 14 violation can erode public trust and create risks for CPD. However, CPD, COPA, and Police Board practices allow for Department members with Rule 14 histories to remain employed, often assigned to positions such as Beat Officer or Detective.
  2. CPD’s processes for identifying members with Rule 14 histories and sharing this information as required lack rigor and controls, and therefore pose risk to the Department and compromise the legal and constitutional rights of defendants and litigants. CPD does not accurately maintain records pertaining to members’ Rule 14 histories. Members with Rule 14 histories were missing from the list CPD provided to OIG and additional records were inconclusive or could not be located. Further, CPD will only produce a member’s disciplinary history if a prosecutor explicitly requests the disciplinary history, which does not appear to be a consistent practice.
  3. Gaps in current BIA and COPA policies and practices contribute to the underenforcement of Rule 14. BIA policies do not instruct investigators to consider all forms of evidence when evaluating inconsistencies during their investigations. COPA policies do not instruct investigators to specifically consider Rule 14 violations when making credibility determinations. And finally, BIA and COPA Summary Reports do not consistently reflect consideration and analysis of potential Rule 14 violations.  

To improve the enforcement of Rule 14, OIG recommends the following:

  1. BIA and COPA should recommend separation of CPD members found to have violated Rule 14, consistent with the agencies’ respective stated policy positions.
  2. CPD should consistently separate members who have violated Rule 14, given the risks – including legal and reputational ones – posed by continuing to employ such members.
  3. The Police Board should uphold separations for members who have violated Rule 14, consistent with the Board’s language in its decisions about the impact of Rule 14 violations.
  4. If members who have violated Rule 14 remain employed with the Department, CPD should ensure they are assigned or detailed to positions that do not require them to write reports or testify in court. CPD should also periodically review the assignments and details of its members with Rule 14 histories, as applicable, to ensure they are not in positions that require them to write reports or testify in court.
  5. CPD should maintain accurate records which permit the identification of all members with Rule 14 histories.
  6. CPD should consistently and timely inform prosecutorial bodies when a Department member’s Rule 14 violation is finalized and all available review and appeal pathways—including any grievance procedures and Police Board review—have been exhausted and/or waived.
  7. CPD should document which records the Department produces pursuant to its disclosure obligations, so that it may confirm or verify that it has met these obligations.
  8. CPD should revise its “Requirements of a Complete Log Number Investigative File” directive to further clarify that BIA investigators should consider all types of evidence when conducting credibility assessments and subsequent analyses of potential Rule 14 violations.
  9. COPA should revise its “Final Summary Report” policy to instruct investigators to consider Rule 14 violations specifically when conducting credibility assessments.
  10. BIA and COPA should update their Summary Reports to include a standardized mechanism, such as an affirmation or certification, where investigators indicate they have considered all evidence, including original statements and any subsequent statements and amended or modified statements, to determine whether a CPD member who is the subject of a disciplinary investigation has violated Rule 14. As needed, Summary Reports should capture the investigating agency’s thorough consideration and analysis of the applicability of Rule 14. To help ensure consistency, fairness, and thoroughness of investigations, and the rigorous and thorough enforcement of Rule 14, investigators should be required to make this affirmation or certification in each disciplinary matter which is investigated to a finding.[6]