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Cook County Board Commissioner Proposes Hearing On Police Oversight

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin is pushing for a county board hearing into how suburbs investigate police shootings following a Better Government Association/WBEZ investigation that found gaping loopholes in administrative oversight.

Suffredin of Evanston introduced a resolution calling for the hearing after county Sheriff Tom Dart in January, responding to the investigation, issued letters to all suburban Cook County police departments offering help with training and administrative investigations into police shootings.

“Once you’ve identified that there is a gap in the public safety protection of our people,” Suffredin said, “we should encourage those places where there is a gap to try to take action.”

The full county board will vote next month on whether to hold the hearing.

The investigation found police officers in Cook County suburbs were involved in 113 shootings since 2005, many of them questionable. But no officers were disciplined, fired or charged with wrongdoing in any of those cases.

The Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force currently conducts investigations of police shootings in the Cook County suburbs but the scope of those investigations is confined to examinations of whether officers broke the law. The state police agency does not look into whether policies or procedures were violated.

The hearing would explore ways for the county to provide assistance to the suburbs for training and investigations of police shootings, though Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she was unsure how the cash-strapped county could help pay for it.

“It’s hard for me to figure out how we’re going to have the resources to take on additional responsibility in light of our present fiscal constraints,” Preckwinkle said.

Jared Rutecki is a reporter with the Better Government Association. Patrick Smith is a criminal justice reporter with WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter at @jaredrutecki and @pksmid.

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