The Chicago agency that investigates police misconduct is set to launch another public training program, which aims to give residents, law enforcement and other oversight agencies a better look into how it operates in the city’s accountability system.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) next week will launch its second People’s Academy — a six-week training course that’s open to the public and gives an in-depth look at some of the office’s operations, such as complaint investigations, body-worn camera video analysis and disciplinary recommendations.
“We clearly recognized at COPA that any investigative work — no matter how solid and how much thought and integrity goes into those outcomes — they don’t matter a whole lot if the community does not understand the process and understand who we are, what role we play in broader accountability,” COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten said.
“Instead of letting the work speak for itself,” she continued, “we know we have to get out to the community and speak for the work and highlight the good work that goes on here.”
The People’s Academy consists of six two-hour sessions held each Tuesday from Oct. 10 until Nov. 14 with in-person attendance at the Bauer Plummer Public Safety Training Center and virtual attendance online.
Each week, different COPA officials will lead trainings on various topics related to the oversight agency. Those include an introduction into officer-involved shooting investigations, use of force policies and the office’s video release policy, which guides when and how they can release body-worn camera videos to the public.
The program also includes overviews of witness reliability and improper searches and seizures, and details COPA’s role in the Chicago Police Department’s disciplinary process.
The goal, Kersten said, is to better inform the public of the work COPA does and allow them “to explain to a neighbor or a community member or a family member who we are and what we do and how to use us if you need us.”
COPA held its inaugural People’s Academy in the spring, and beyond Chicago residents, Kersten said participants included CPD senior leadership and members of its Bureau of Internal Affairs, Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability commissioners and aldermanic staffers.
From outside the city, Kersten said there were also members from oversight agencies in cities such as Oakland, Louisville, Phoenix, St. Louis, Boston and Los Angeles.
Anyone interested in registering for the upcoming People’s Academy can do so at COPA’s website.
“I just think it’s another example of us really trying to take the message of who we are and what we do to the community we serve,” Kersten said, “which includes everyday Chicagoans, Chicago Police Department members and anyone really who's interested in building a safer and accountable public safety system.”