CHICAGO (AP) — The agency that investigates Chicago police misconduct rarely recommends punishment and the Chicago Police Board often doesn't follow its recommendation when it does suggest firing officers, according to an analysis of data.
The Chicago Tribune's investigation (http://trib.in/29RfHGM ) of the Independent Police Review Authority or IPRA focused on cases in which complainants signed sworn affidavits. The police oversight agency recommended punishment in less than 4 percent of thousands of cases since 2012.
Between 2008 and earlier this year, 43 cases in which the agency recommended firing went to the Chicago Police Board, the newspaper reported. The board agreed that the officer or officers should be fired in 20 of those cases. The Chicago Police Department employs nearly 12,000 sworn officers.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to replace IPRA with a more aggressive oversight body. The mayor said in May that he would announce a fuller plan by June. That hasn't happened.
Last year's release of dashcam video showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 prompted the mayor's promise of reform. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder.
Sharon Fairley, who has headed IPRA since December, told the newspaper that the agency needed to improve and become more independent. IPRA has reopened four cases that previously had been closed and is reviewing about a dozen others.
"I don't see investigators being challenged and charged with weighing credibility and assessing the plausibility of a narrative as much as I think should be done," Fairley said of IPRA's past performance.
The Tribune's analysis also found a pattern of downgrading serious complaints to minor offenses.
In nearly half of about 200 cases in which an excessive force allegation was made and IPRA concluded misconduct occurred, the agency found an officer responsible for a less serious offense — such as using profanity or failing to complete reports — and dismissed the more serious charge.
IPRA has about 90 employees and a 2016 budget of about $8.4 million.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley created the police oversight agency in 2007 to replace a similar one that had been criticized. At least 24 of IPRA's approximately 50 investigators are holdovers from that former entity, according to the Tribune's investigation.
Jon Loevy, an attorney who has won lawsuits against the Chicago police, said IPRA is "completely synonymous" with the prior agency.
"It was the same employees, same attitude, same results," Loevy said.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com