The independent agency tasked with policing Chicago cops hasn’t released findings on several unjustified police shootings, and its leaders are more concerned with protecting officers than investigating citizen complaints, a fired employee said.
Lorenzo Davis, an Independent Police Review Authority supervisor who was fired this month, said Chief Administrator Scott Ando asked him to change his findings in three police shootings in which he had determined officers committed wrongdoing.
The authority was formed in 2007 amid mounting frustration with the city’s handling of police misconduct cases. The agency, independent from the police department and staffed by civilians, handles all allegations of misconduct against officers.
Davis said the authority is failing its mission to maintain “the highest level of integrity while conducting objective, thorough investigations, striving to reach a sound and just conclusion.”
“The Independent Police Review Authority is being used to deflect protest and criticism from the police department,” Davis told The Huffington Post. “What they’re concerned about is the careers of the police officers.”
Ando and the authority denied Davis’ claims.
“No one at IPRA has ever been asked to change their findings,” Ando said in a statement to WBEZ, which first reported on Davis’ termination.
Shortly before he was fired, a performance evaluation said Davis “resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to [officer-involved shootings]," the Chicago radio station reported.
Of several hundred police shooting cases the IRPA has reviewed since its creation, only a few were found unjustified, the Chicago Reader reports. The agency recommended firing a cop involved in a shooting for the first time ever last month, according to the news site. In that case, Officer Francisco Perez, working security while off duty, witnessed a drive-by shooting and then fired at the wrong car 16 times.
Davis said that during his seven years at the agency, he and his team submitted findings on 13 police shootings, and found six of those unjustified.
According to Davis, three of those cases have not been completed by Ando and one has been assigned to a new supervisor and investigator. In the remaining two cases, Davis said Ando disagreed with the findings.
Davis alleged he was told to change findings to exonerate officers in at least three investigations, which he said he resisted. He said he could not discuss specifics of each case, as they are considered confidential.
Davis started at IPRA in 2008. He supervised a team of five investigators when he was fired. Previously, he was a Chicago police officer for two decades.
Davis said he has no bias against cops, as his recent performance review alleged. He said part of IPRA's problem is that it’s run by people who worked in law enforcement for most of their careers, instead of civilians without strong ties to police.
“The problem is the people at the top. The problem is the administration,” Davis said. “Why are they justifying all these hundreds of police shootings and finding none of them to be not justified? Either that’s what they’ve been told to do, or that’s their mentality.”
In a statement emailed to The Huffington Post, Ando said supervisors had determined that some of Davis' investigations were incomplete. As a matter of policy, they requested he review the cases and "include all available evidence" in his findings.
Ando said that Davis didn't include all available evidence in a number of cases, some of which "were built on assumptions."
“In some cases Mr. Davis rejected the recommendations of his subordinates and told them to change their recommendations," he added.
Davis insisted he had completed the investigative work in the cases Ando said were "incomplete."
Officer-involved shootings can take a long time to investigate -- sometimes more than three years -- because of their complexities. But Davis said some cases were intentionally delayed.
“Many [police shooting investigations] are held up by the administration,” he said. “Particularly [with] cases that should be ‘not justified’ or sustained, they just don’t want to deal with them, so they hold onto them for months trying to decide what to do.”
Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Granich represents two people who allege police used excessive force arresting them. Within 48 hours of the arrest, Granich said, IPRA had taken statements from both his clients. As of this month -- almost two years since the arrests -- authority investigators had not interviewed the accused officers, Granich said.
“This is the problem with IPRA," Granich said. "They take audiotaped statements of complainants and witnesses basically to be used against them later at trial ... and they don’t interview the cops. They're just an arm against the city to hurt people bringing complaints."
IPRA has been criticized before for delays. The Chicago Tribune reported that IPRA took more than five years to file excessive force charges and recommend the firing of an officer who allegedly cracked a man in the head with his baton in 2012. The case was dismissed in 2012 because the statute of limitations had expired.
Ando noted that IPRA has sustained 20 percent of the complaints against police this year, a record, compared with 13 percent in 2014. IPRA’s investigative process had led to prosecutorial action against several officers, he said, including Dante Servin, who in April was found not guilty in the fatal shooting of Rekia Boyd, and Glenn Evans, who faces trial next month on charges he put his gun in a suspect’s mouth.
IPRA’s spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions about its handling of Davis’ investigations.
Granich said IPRA sustained a complaint against an officer his clients accused of misconduct, which may help in their defense. But his opinion of the authority remains overwhelmingly negative.
“It’s like a clock that’s broken. Two times a day it’ll be right,” Granich said. “IPRA is part of the systemic culture in Chicago of not investigating the police and making sure that the police are not held accountable.”