Several Chicago aldermen said Tuesday that the systems of accountability created in the wake of the Laquan McDonald murder failed Anjanette Young in 2019 when police entered her home and handcuffed her while she was naked and screaming that they had the wrong house.
That was the main takeaway from some aldermen who took part in a day-long hearing questioning Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, Civilian Office of Police Accountability Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts and others tasked with investigating police misconduct.
Tuesday’s hearing marks the latest chapter in a scandal that has engulfed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration for more than a week. It started when CBS 2 in Chicago first aired police body camera footage from the botched raid on Young’s house in February 2019.
The fallout prompted City Hall’s top lawyer to resign last weekend, after it came out that his office sought to prevent the television station from airing the footage – and asked a judge to punish Young for sharing it. Lightfoot has requested a review of all pending search warrant cases, and she announced a new policy that gives people full access to police footage related to their arrest.
Much of the questioning at Tuesday’s hearing centered on COPA, the city agency created in the wake of the McDonald scandal to fix the deficiencies in how the city investigates allegations of police misconduct.
But Ald. Maria Hadden, 49th Ward, said it seemed Young’s case had fallen through the cracks. Though the Young raid happened early last year, COPA didn’t open an investigation until November, when Young filed a civil suit against the city.
“Why weren’t we dealing with this sooner?” Hadden asked. “The truth of the matter is that it’s just all too common for Chicagoans in Black and brown communities to have our rights violated, to have our homes invaded and to be humiliated and treated as less than human.”
Roberts said COPA wasn’t even made aware of the incident until a reporter asked whether there was an open case regarding the wrong raid on Young’s home.
“Our staff reviewed our database [and] found out we didn’t have an open case,” Roberts said. “We found out kind of in a nontraditional manner.”
“Yeah, I think that’s about as polite a way you could put it,” Ald. Matt Martin, 47th Ward, responded sarcastically.
Martin said the lack of notice from the city’s Law and Police Departments was “incredibly problematic.”
Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th Ward, was more brash in her assessment, calling the investigative agency “professional time-wasters” when no one could answer “who gets fired” for not knowing that the offender CPD was looking for during the Young raid lived a couple doors down from Young’s home – with an electronic tracking band on his leg.
“So why are we even on this call?” Taylor shouted in the virtual hearing. “Because you all haven’t been able to answer anything that we’re actually asking.”
At one point, when Taylor asked why the cops involved in raiding the wrong house weren’t immediately suspended, Supt. Brown quipped “you will have to ask Eddie Johnson,” referring to his predecessor. Brown has been on the job for less than a year.
The 12 police officers and one sergeant involved in the Young incident were active until Brown placed them on desk duty this week. He said he can’t take further action until COPA finishes its investigation, which won’t be done until early next year.
Brown said the Chicago Police Department conducts about 1,500 searches in a given year, adding that there aren’t enough resources to review the camera footage for each one. Instead, he said, police body camera footage is reviewed in a randomized way.
For his part, Brown said he was committed to ending all “no-knock” raids — where police raid a home without knocking before they enter — unless someone’s public safety is at risk. The Young incident was not a no-knock raid, and the cops involved did identify themselves — a point that was repeated throughout the hearing.
Meanwhile, Deborah Witzburg, Chicago’s Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety, said her office has had difficulty counting how many “wrong raids” occur in a given year.
Witzburg said her team is currently working on an analysis using CPD data to differentiate between two types of wrong raids: one where police go to the wrong home, and one where the search warrant was the product of faulty information from an informant.
Witzburg said while the particulars of the Young case are unique — the fact that she was handcuffed naked — Young’s allegations of being denied her Fourth Amendment rights is a common complaint in these types of cases.
Claudia Morell covers city of Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @claudiamorell.