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City To Quit Ordering Police-Shooting Investigators To Change Findings

The agency that probes shootings by Chicago police says it will no longer order investigators to change their findings.

Sharon Fairley, chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, said at a Wednesday news conference that investigators can stick to their findings even if superiors overturn them.

Fairley also promised a paper trail in the case file. “We would document that kind of conflict going forward,” she said.

WBEZ revealed that Scott Ando, Fairley’s predecessor, fired Supervising Investigator Lorenzo Davis last July after he resisted orders to change findings that officers were at fault in six shooting cases.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel ousted Ando in December during an outcry about a dashboard camera video showing white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014.

At the news conference Wednesday, Fairley also said IPRA was cutting ties to a controversial psychologist who had provided the agency’s only shooting-specific training for investigators and managers.

WBEZ revealed last September that the psychologist, Bill Lewinski, had been an expert defense witness for Chicago officers in seven shootings. Much of Lewinski’s research sought to explain why cops sometimes shoot people who don’t pose a threat.

IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt says the agency has identified other training options.

Fairley also announced that IPRA is bringing in a law firm for a six-month audit to assess the quality and accuracy of closed shooting investigations. “We must understand how our work lost public confidence,” Fairley said.

The firm McGuireWoods LLP will choose an estimated 20 to 40 cases for the review, Fairley said, and will report its findings to the public. “This is a project that is going to be independent of [IPRA],” she said.

Merritt said it is possible the audit will lead IPRA to reopen some of the investigations.

The IPRA announcements did not satisfy some Chicago police-accountability advocates. “IPRA is one of the main things that has allowed the code of silence to flourish in the Chicago Police Department,” said Sheila Bedi, a Northwestern University law professor.

“There is nothing that the current system of IPRA could do, given its history of allowing police officers to, quite literally, get away with murder,” Bedi said. “It needs to be abolished and entirely reconstituted.”

Since 2007, IPRA has investigated police shootings that have killed at least 130 people and injured 285 others, according to city records. The agency has found officers at fault in just two of those cases, both off-duty incidents.

Chip Mitchell is WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.

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