In late 2016, the City initiated the first stage of legislative reforms for police accountability with, among other things, the creation of an independent dedicated police oversight office within the Office of Inspector General. The law took effect in November, and funding for it was made available at the start of 2017. The legislation creating that section mandates that a national search be conducted by an external group charged with providing the Inspector General with a list of 10 or more qualified candidates. The selection process is directly informed by community input in the form of an initial external screening panel constituted of local constituent interest leaders and experts in the field. Recently, this process resulted in Deborah Witzburg’s selection as the Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety and unanimous confirmation by the Chicago City Council on June 17, 2020. She follows Joseph Lipari, who served from 2018-2020, and Dr. Laura Kunard, who served for a short period as the first Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety.
The Public Safety section started from a strong foundation, established through trailblazing OIG investigative and audit inquiries that looked into aspects of the operations of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). In recent years, OIG has published 13 audits, advisories, and reviews on police and public safety subjects. OIG has also taken on investigations of misconduct by police and police oversight personnel, sworn and unsworn, patrol and managerial, in matters where the previously existing oversight system had faltered, including broad scale investigations into the handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting and the death of David Koschman.
The creation of the dedicated Public Safety section is a critical beginning, but by no means the end, of a long path of establishing public confidence, trust in, and legitimacy of CPD. We are hopeful that sworn officers, the residents of the City they serve, the public servants who provide critical support services to both groups, and all those invested in the health and future of this City will join and partner with us in that journey, grounded in a greater commitment to transparency and productive dialogue and engagement with each other.