Watchdog Begins Probe of ‘Possible Misconduct’ by City Officials in Botched Raid

A still image from a Chicago Police Department body camera video shows a police raid at the home of Anjanette Young in February 2019. (WTTW News via Ja’Mal Green)A still image from a Chicago Police Department body camera video shows a police raid at the home of Anjanette Young in February 2019. (WTTW News via Ja’Mal Green)

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson announced Wednesday that his probe of the botched raid in February 2019 that left Anjanette Young handcuffed while naked and pleading for help would focus on “possible misconduct” by city officials.

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The city’s watchdog agreed to probe the incident after dozens of aldermen asked him to investigate. The raid set off a political firestorm after CBS2-TV aired video of the incident showing that Young, a social worker, had been left unclothed for 40 minutes by a group of male officers.

Ferguson said his office would not duplicate the ongoing effort by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency known as COPA that is charged with investigating police misconduct allegations. That inquiry is focused on the conduct of “sworn personnel directly involved in the acquisition and execution of the search warrant in February 2019.”

That probe began in November 2019. Twelve officers who participated in the raid were placed on desk duty and stripped of their police powers by Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown on Dec. 21.

“The (Office of the Inspector General’s) investigation may include inquiry into actions conducted by, through or on behalf of CPD, COPA, the Law Department, and the mayor’s office,” according to a statement from Ferguson’s office.

The inquiry by the inspector general “may further include programmatic and policy issues and recommendations of broader application that may be identified in the course of the investigation,” according to the statement.

In addition, Ferguson said his office “is committed to ensuring that, as a whole, the various efforts underway provide the robust, thoroughgoing accountability called for by this incident and its aftermath with as much transparency as the law allows.”

Before the video of the raid on Young’s home created a firestorm, Ferguson’s office had already begun investigating the issue of botched raids, said Deborah Witzburg, the deputy inspector general for public safety.

Emails that showed Lightfoot was told in November 2019 that the raid was “pretty bad” and briefed in detail about what happened to Young were released Dec. 30 by the mayor’s office.

Ferguson told aldermen Dec. 31 that his decision to open a probe was prompted in part by the content of those emails.

In a letter to aldermen sent on Dec. 22, Lightfoot said she supported an investigation by the inspector general and would instruct her staff to “cooperate with him and his team in any way that we can.”

Ferguson’s probe is the third investigation into the February 2019 raid on Young’s apartment to be publicly announced.

In addition, Lightfoot announced Dec. 22 she had tapped retired Judge Ann Claire Williams and the law firm Jones Day to conduct an outside investigation into the raid and the conduct of the mayor’s office, the city’s Law Department and the police department.

Williams said in a statement released Wednesday by Jones Day that her work had begun.

“The investigation focuses on relevant city policies and procedures, and whether they were violated or should be changed, in light of what occurred in this matter,” according to the statement. “While our investigation will not cover the raid itself, which COPA is investigating, we will review the existing law and the Chicago Police Department’s policies and procedures relating to the release of body-camera videos, as well as the operation of CPD’s use of force unit in such cases. We are also reviewing how the City departments involved, including CPD, the Law Department, COPA, and the Mayor’s Office, handled the ensuing FOIA requests, litigation, and media efforts to air video footage of the incident.”

Williams said she would not comment again on the probe while it is in progress.

The announcement of Williams’ appointment prompted criticism from several members of the City Council who said it was inappropriate for the mayor to select a special counsel to investigate her own conduct and that of her staff, especially in light of the fact that the mayor has twice made incorrect statements about her knowledge of the raid to the news media.

Lightfoot initially told the news media that she did not learn about the raid until she saw CBS2’s report. However, 24 hours later she acknowledged that she was informed in November 2019 about the raid and Young’s attempt to get video of the incident, but “said she had no specific recollection” of being told about the incident.

There is no timeline for any of the three probes to be completed.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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