New COPA Chief Sydney Roberts Starts at Revamped Police Oversight Body

It’s been less than nine months since Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, was launched – and its second chief is now taking charge of the oversight board.

Sydney Roberts is picking up where Sharon Fairley left off in holding police accountable while trying to build faith in communities where mistrust of law enforcement has long been high.

COPA was created by the Chicago City Council to replace the discredited Independent Police Review Authority in the wake of the fallout from the release of dashcam video showing African-American teenager Laquan McDonald being shot and killed by white police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who has since been charged with first-degree murder.

Roberts was unanimously chosen to become COPA head by a panel of community leaders tasked with finding a replacement for Fairley, who resigned from the post to join a field of candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee for Illinois attorney general. (Kwame Raoul won the nomination.)

“It is an honor to have been selected and to have the opportunity to serve in a capacity to build trust and confidence in the police accountability structure of Chicago,” Roberts said in a statement released by the mayor’s office. She also promised to “make decisions based only on the facts” and to lead COPA “with fairness, openness and independence.”

Before taking the lead at COPA, Roberts had been the director of the Illinois Secretary of State Police since 2010. Prior to that, she was first deputy and chief operating officer for the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General, where she led investigations into waste, abuse and fraud. She was also inspector general for the Illinois Department of Human Services under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And before that she was a Maywood Police Department commander, where she led the internal affairs division.

Roberts joins Eddie Arruza for her first broadcast interview since starting her new job at COPA on Monday.

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