Records the Chicago Police Department (CPD) released to the Weekly last week following a court order show that 47 percent of officers have been subject to a civilian complaint in the past five years. A small minority of officers, about 6 percent, have garnered more than three complaints during that time period, according to the documents.
The records include two internal audits prepared last year by Chad Williams, the former civilian commanding officer of the department’s Audit Division. The audits analyzed disciplinary histories of all CPD officers and of school resource officers (SROs), respectively. The audit of SROs was apparently prepared in response to grassroots efforts by organizers last summer. The audits were designed to offer context to discussions between the department and the Independent Monitoring Team tasked with implementing the 2017 federal consent decree, which the department remains under.
The department provided the audits to the Weekly after a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled that CPD had improperly redacted those and other documents that we originally requested as part of another investigative report.
Williams, who joined the department in 2018, quit in August; the Tribune reported that he sent a resignation letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot in which he alleged CPD brass were uninterested in reform and had retaliated against him for voicing concerns about the department’s adherence to the consent decree. The Audit Division was created by the consent decree. In June, Williams spoke to Sasha-Ann Simons of WBEZ’s Reset, and said the City, Illinois Attorney General, and Independent Monitoring Team involved in implementing the consent decree are “in an ongoing back-and-forth” about the decree’s meaning.
The first audit, dated May 6, 2020, is a department-wide analysis of how many active police officers had formal complaints levied against them in the previous five years. (The collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police prohibits incidents more than five years old from being considered in disciplinary cases.)
That audit found that 6,153 sworn police officers, or about 47 percent of the department, had been the subject of one or more complaint investigations in that time. Twelve percent had been investigated twice in the five-year period, 6 percent were investigated three times, and about 6 percent were investigated more than three times.
Of those 6,153 officers, nearly 20 percent had at least one complaint that investigators found to be sustained. Additionally, 125 officers, or about 1 percent, had two or more complaints sustained by investigators; twenty-three had three sustained complaints; five had four sustained, and one officer had five complaints sustained.
The vast majority of officers—91 percent—had zero sustained complaints on their records in the five-year period the auditor analyzed.
Investigations may find complaints not sustained for a variety of reasons, including investigators being unable to locate witnesses, complainants dropping their cases, and other cops contradicting witness testimony. Until earlier this year, investigators could find a complaint unsustained because complainants declined to sign sworn affidavits.
The second audit, dated July 21, 2020, analyzed how many school resource officers (SROs) had formal complaints made against them in the previous five years. School resource officers were a focal point of grassroots organizing during last year’s protests against racism and police brutality, and several local school councils voted to remove some or all of theirs.
The audit was prepared at the request of then-Deputy Superintendent Barbara West, apparently in response to those grassroots efforts. In an email accompanying the audit, Williams wrote “…the topic of SROs has obviously been in the news. As a result, Deputy Superintendent West requested that we update the analysis to make it as current as possible.”
West led oversight of the department’s consent-decree compliance efforts until she resigned in September 2020.
According to the audit, of the 203 SROs and school liaison supervisors who were active in 2020, 33 percent had been the subject of a complaint in the previous five years. Another 20 percent were the subject of two or more complaints. One officer had four complaints in the previous five years, and another officer had five.
Eighteen SROs had a complaint against them that investigators found to be sustained, and one SRO had two complaints against them sustained.
The audit also found that fifteen then-current SROs, or about 7 percent, had been suspended from duty as the result of disciplinary action in the previous five years. Department-wide, about 6 percent of officers were suspended during that same time period.
Eight school resource officers had been suspended for at least a week as the result of a complaint investigation. Specifically, three officers had a five-day suspension; one had a fifteen-day suspension; one had a twenty-four-day suspension; two had twenty-five day suspensions; and one was suspended for thirty days.
The audits did not disclose the identities of the school resource officers who had been suspended as a result of an investigation.
In a statement to the Weekly, CPD spokesperson Don Terry wrote, “While a significant majority of complaints against the officers now serving as SROs were dismissed, those officers whose allegations were sustained received the appropriate discipline and corrective measures commensurate with the violation.”
Update, November 25, 2021: This story was updated to include a statement from CPD spokesperson Don Terry.
Jim Daley is the Weekly’s interim managing editor and politics editor. He last wrote about CPD Officer Bruce Dyker’s long history of complaints.