More scrutiny on the Chicago Police Department. On Tuesday, a City Council member called for the abolishment of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the board tasked with overseeing police misconduct, in favor of a new citizen police monitor.
And a new report cites allegations that the fiancée of new police superintendent Eddie Johnson is part of a probe into cheating on a lieutenant’s exam.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) is proposing all but cutting off the mayor from any ties to police oversight and handing over the duties to a citizen police monitor. She says it’s time to get rid of IPRA, whose director is appointed by the mayor. She’s proposing to replace it with this new office where:
• The inspector general would appoint an eight-member panel of community, civil rights and faith-based leaders to select a citizen police monitor – entirely independent of the mayor’s office.
• It would not only investigate complaints of police abuse, but initiate investigations on patterns of police abuse – much like the current justice department investigation
• And it would be funded to the tune of about $22 million, or 1.5 percent of CPD’s budget compared to $8.5 for IPRA.
“The problem is with IPRA. The name IPRA has been tainted just like OPS (the now-defunct Office of Professional Standards) was tainted years ago,” Hairston said.
When asked if she believed the mayor would go along with ceding power, she said he would have to.
“The definition of a leader is somebody that does not mind ceding some power,” Hairston said. “Looking at the condition of the city, the way he’s done it is not working.”
The mayor recently appointed former federal prosecutor Sharon Fairley to be the new head of IPRA. But Hairston says while she thought Fairley was a solid pick for the post, it’s too little too late, citing IPRA’s history of almost never substantiating an allegation made against a police officer.
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who was instrumental in forcing the release of the Laquan McDonald video, collaborated on the ordinance and agrees that simply changing the leadership at IPRA won’t lead to better oversight of police misconduct.
“She inherited the exact same staff, a staff that’s been proven to be biased,” Futterman said. “It’s created the veneer of accountability. Instead, it’s been a critical part of the code of silence that has protected police misconduct and abuse.”
Hairston has not reached out to other aldermen or the mayor about this ordinance yet. The mayor’s office replied with a statement:
“When it comes to police accountability, we all recognize that trust needs to be rebuilt not only with the police department but also with IPRA, the independent agency tasked with investigating the most serious allegations against officers. Mayor Emanuel has confidence in the new leadership at IPRA, and he supports the reforms they have put in place to restore trust in the agency and ensure residents can have faith in the results of their investigations.”
Also today, a report in DNAInfo.com says that the fiancée of new interim police superintendent Eddie Johnson is caught up in a possible cheating probe.
The inspector general is investigating the circumstances around a police study group where officers were preparing for a lieutenant’s exam. The probe centers on whether or not cheating occurred before the exam took place. Part of that study group was Nakia Fenner – an officer who passed the exam and is Johnson’s fiancée.
The study group was reportedly hosted by the head of CPD’s Bureau of Administration, Eugene Williams, who was passed over for the top cop spot. Williams had been privy to the exam so he knew what was on it, according to the report. The study group was reportedly formed by NOBLE, a group of black police executives of which Williams was also in charge at the time.
We spoke with former police sergeant and current Alderman Willie Cochran (20th Ward) who says these study groups are a core part of police culture and have existed for decades. Cochran says that, in his time, a top CPD official who was also privy to what was on the lieutenant’s exam would also host study groups.
“People were always anxious to get into that group,” Cochran said. “You had to get invited to be a part of it, and nobody knew what the criteria really was.”
Cochran says the focus on the NOBLE study group is unfair, and that study groups have long been organized by race.
“You’ve had white leadership hosting study groups, and look at the number of promotions that have come out of it,” he said. “Hispanics have had study groups. African-Americans have not fared as well as other groups in terms of promotions. For this whistleblower to insinuate that, just because these study group members do well on an exam, it sounds racially motivated.”
In the DNAInfo.com report, Fenner denied being part of the study group and Johnson said he did not know there was a probe into it.
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March 17: After a nationwide search that lasted nearly four months, three finalists for Chicago police superintendent were named. Among them are 36-year Chicago police veteran Eugene Williams and two outsiders, Cedric Alexander and Anne Kirkpatrick.
Jan. 12: The Chicago Police Board is holding a public hearing on the search for a new superintendent, and African-American aldermen and community members reveal to us their short list for the job.
Jan. 4: Independent Police Review Authority acting chief administrator Sharon Fairley announced changes to the agency’s leadership and announced proposed reforms to the agency.