IPRA Workers Fight to Keep the Agency Intact

Investigators at the Independent Police Review Authority and the union that represents them are pushing back against the mayor's call to scrap and replace the agency.

IPRA has come under fire in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, highlighting an oversight agency that has almost never found fault with police officers in use-of-force investigations. IPRA investigator Lakenya White says she and her colleagues are not to blame for the agency’s performance and the City Council should rethink plans to scrap it entirely.

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"Absolutely, IPRA investigators care about the job they do. They're educated, they come from the communities where the incidents happen that they investigate," White said. "Not just anybody can come in and do this job, it takes someone with experience and who is well educated."

White and the 60 or so investigators with the agency are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the state's largest public employee union. AFSCME representative Jo Patton says IPRAs lack of results are not the fault of investigators, but of the Chicago Police Department and Fraternal Order of Police rules that restrict what the agency can investigate and when it can find fault with a police officer.

"The issues involved don't have to do with poor performance on the part of investigators," Patton said. "It has to do with Chicago Police Department use-of-force policies; it has to do with the past leadership of IPRA where investigators found themselves very much constrained. Under good, independent leadership, these investigators can do a terrific job."

IPRA chief Sharon Fairley was not available for comment Thursday. AFSCME representatives will be on hand Thursday evening as aldermen hold a community hearing at the South Shore Cultural Center on plans to scrap IPRA and replace it with a new civilian investigative agency.

Join us for a live report from the hearing at 7 p.m.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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