Last December, as local and national news outlets scrutinized her handling of the Chicago police raid of social worker Anjanette Young’s home, Mayor Lori Lightfoot repeatedly promised “full transparency” about the case.
Ten months later, Lightfoot is refusing to say whether she will ever release reports and evidence from investigations that could shed light on the 2019 raid’s aftermath — including city efforts spanning more than a year to withhold the body camera footage that shows Young having to stand naked in handcuffs for nearly 10 minutes in a room full of male cops as she insisted they had the wrong home.
“There’s more road that we have to journey down before we’re even at the point of making that decision,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, saying she could not commit to releasing one of the reports, a 163-page account submitted by Inspector General Joe Ferguson on Oct. 15, his last day in the office.
“That report and that investigation, from my perspective, is not done,” said Lightfoot, who has 30 days to submit a response to the IG’s office.
Lightfoot said she would “follow the law” and release Ferguson’s report “if that’s what the law dictates.”
The law Lightfoot said she would follow is a measure she crafted and pushed through the City Council in 2019. It leaves it up to the corporation counsel’s “sole discretion” to release the IG’s investigative files and reports. The corporation counsel, the city’s top lawyer, answers to the mayor.
If Corporation Counsel Celia Meza decides to withhold the report, the public’s only glimpse will be a summary published in a quarterly report from the IG’s office next year.
In a WBEZ interview Monday, Ferguson did not reveal specifics about the report.
“There was a system, both in particular and culturally, that failed a victim, and essentially revictimized Anjanette Young,” Ferguson said. “There are things that absolutely implicate violations of good governance and fiduciary responsibility.”
“The city was just behaving badly in so many respects,” he said.
Ferguson blasted a Lightfoot-initiated parallel investigation by Ann Claire Williams, a retired federal judge with the law firm Jones Day. He said his office was cut off, “under a claimed cloak of attorney-client privilege,” from all of that inquiry’s evidence.
That lack of access prevented Ferguson’s office from making disciplinary recommendations, he said.
“We don’t loft conclusions, knowing that there is evidence that we have been barred from seeing,” Ferguson said.
In December, Lightfoot initiated Williams’ inquiry as a transparency effort.
This week, when asked whether the public will have access to the judge’s report and evidence, the mayor would not commit. Her office responded with a one-line statement: “We will have more to say at a future date.”
The public took interest in the botched raid last year partly because the Lightfoot administration had fought hard to keep the body camera video hidden. The city denied open-records requests for the footage and sought a federal judge’s order to stop CBS 2 Chicago from airing it.
Lightfoot later claimed in a news conference she was not aware of the incident until the day after that broadcast. But internal emails showed she had learned about the raid more than a year earlier and ordered a phone meeting with staffers about it. She later admitted she had been notified of the video’s existence but said she had forgotten.
The emails also showed that, instead of addressing the wrongful raid and Young’s humiliation, her aides focused on minimizing negative news attention.
The public lacks access not only to inquiries about the city’s handling of the raid but to the city’s report about the incident itself — a report that appears jammed up in bureaucracy. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability finished the investigation in April, 16 months after starting. COPA said the probe examined 100 allegations of misconduct against more than a dozen officers who took part in the raid.
The agency said it would not release its findings and discipline recommendations until a review by Police Supt. David Brown.
The city’s Data Portal lists the case’s “current status” as “Pending CPD Review.”
A police spokesman this week would not answer whether Brown has finished his review, whether the superintendent concurred with COPA’s findings and recommendations, and whether Brown had forwarded the case to the Law Department for any discipline charges to be drafted and served.
Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, said keeping these reports hidden is inconsistent with Lightfoot’s promises last December.
“Transparency isn’t a word we can just throw around,” Saulter said. “It’s actually got to mean something.”