Chicago’s Top Cop Calls Discipline System A ‘Starting Point’ | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Top Cop Calls Discipline System A ‘Starting Point’

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Thursday that rules for punishing officer misconduct are just the start of a more “consistent” discipline system.

“We’ve never had (discipline rules) before, so as we go move forward, we will tweak it to try and get it as right we can,” Johnson said.

The new standards, which took effect Wednesday, establish punishments for a range of violations, like working while on medical leave or making an improper arrest.

The rules, known as the “complaint register matrix,” are meant to standardize how the department disciplines officers. Previous disciplinary action had been a frequent target of critics.

A 2015 review of complaint data by the Citizens Police Data Project found that in the instances when officers were punished, the consequences for breaking department rules were more severe than for civil rights violations.

The city started working on the standards while the Justice Department was investigating police misconduct in Chicago. The city shared a draft with the Justice Department, who deemed the standards not strict enough.

Despite the Justice Department’s recommendations, the new rules were implemented this week.

In its scathing report on Chicago police misconduct, the Justice Department said the rules do not incorporate “difficult but critical modifications that we believe are necessary to ensure the disciplinary system will be fair, impartial, and transparent.”

The report called the system too vague, and said it prescribes “unusually low punishments” for unconstitutional policing.

On Thursday, Johnson responded to those specific complaints at a graduation ceremony for new officers.

He called the discipline procedures “a starting point.”

Police spokesman Frank Giancamilli said in a statement that the department also consulted with the Independent Police Review Authority and others in creating the new standards.

“The guidelines are designed to create greater trust and transparency within CPD's disciplinary system and are consistent with the range of penalties allocated in other police departments,” the statement reads.

Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him @pksmid.

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