A Chicago investigator who determined that several civilian shootings by police officers were unjustified was fired after resisting orders to reverse those findings, according to internal records of his agency obtained by WBEZ.
Scott M. Ando, chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, informed its staff in a July 9 email that the agency no longer employed supervising investigator Lorenzo Davis, 65, a former Chicago police commander. IPRA investigates police-brutality complaints and recommends any punishment.
Davis’s termination came less than two weeks after top IPRA officials, evaluating Davis’s job performance, accused him of “a clear bias against the police” and called him “the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to OIS,” as officer-involved shootings are known in the agency.
Since its 2007 creation, IPRA has investigated nearly 400 civilian shootings by police and found one to be unjustified.
WBEZ asked to interview Ando, promoted last year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the agency. The station also sent Ando’s spokesman questions about sticking points between IPRA investigators and managers, about the agency’s process for overturning investigative findings, and about the reasons the agency had reversed many of Davis’s findings.
The spokesman said there would be no interview and sent this statement: “This is a personnel matter that would be inappropriate to address through the media, though the allegations are baseless and without merit. IPRA is committed to conducting fair, unbiased, objective, thorough and timely investigations of allegations of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings.”
The performance evaluation covered 19 months and concluded that Davis “displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.”
Davis served in the police department for 23 years. As a commander, he headed detective units, the department’s Austin district and, finally, its public-housing unit. He retired from the department in 2004.
“I did not like the direction the police department had taken,” Davis said. “It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.”
After leaving the department, Davis says, he kept thinking about police conduct, especially shootings. Davis, who had a law degree, says he wondered how often the officers really faced life-threatening dangers that would justify deadly force.
“If there are a few bad police officers who have committed some shootings that are unnecessary or bad then it erodes the public’s confidence in all the other police officers out there,” Davis said.
A series of police-conduct scandals, meanwhile, led Mayor Richard M. Daley to move a unit called the Office of Professional Standards from the police department to his direct control. He renamed the unit the Independent Police Review Authority.
IPRA hired Davis as an investigator in 2008. Two years later, around the time he completed a master’s degree in criminal justice, IPRA promoted him to lead a team of five investigators.
Through most of his IPRA tenure, Davis’s performance evaluations showered him with praise. They called him an “effective leader” and “excellent team player.”
The final evaluation, issued June 26, said he “is clearly not a team player.”
Davis, who earned $93,024 a year in the job, says he applied at different points for higher IPRA posts, including chief administrator. He says getting passed over for them did not affect his performance.
“Things began to turn sour, I would say, within the last year,” Davis said. “Chief Administrator Ando began to say that he wanted me to change my findings.”
Davis says he helped investigate more than a dozen shootings by police at the agency. He says his superiors had no objections when his team recommended exonerating officers. The objections came, he says, after each finding that a shooting was unjustified. He says there were six of those cases.
“They have shot people dead when they did not have to shoot,” Davis said about those officers. “They were not in reasonable fear for their lives. The evidence shows that the officer knew, or should have known, that the person who they shot was not armed or did not pose a threat to them or could have been apprehended by means short of deadly force.”
Davis says he can’t go into detail about the cases because some are still pending and because the city considers them confidential. Emanuel’s office did not respond to WBEZ questions about Davis’s termination or about IPRA’s record investigating shootings by officers.
Former IPRA Chief Administrator Ilana Rosenzweig, who hired both Ando and Davis before leaving the agency in 2013, declined to comment about the termination.
Anthony Finnell, a former IPRA supervising investigator, says he considers Davis a mentor. He says the two would confer on cases.
“When the investigators would bring cases to us, as supervisors, we would look, first, to see if the officer was justified in his actions,” said Finnell, who now heads a police-oversight agency in Oakland, California.
Finnell, who left IPRA last year, says the agency’s investigators were better situated than its management to size up a case.
“Many times we would look at the situation and say, ‘Well, I don’t think that reasoning makes sense or that officer is not being as truthful as I think he should be,’ ” Finnell said. “In fact, many times we may have thought they had lied.”
Finnell, who worked at IPRA only 15 months, says he was never asked to change findings. If he had been, he says, he would have followed Davis’s example.
“As an investigator,” Finnell said, “I wouldn’t just change findings because someone told me to.”
Chip Mitchell is WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMitchell1 and @WBEZoutloud, and connect with him through Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.