Top City Investigators Point Fingers Over Police Shooting Reports

Inspector General Joe Ferguson
Inspector General Joe Ferguson speaks with Alison Cuddy about stamping out corruption in Chicago in this file photo from 2011. Katie O’Brien / WBEZ
Inspector General Joe Ferguson
Inspector General Joe Ferguson speaks with Alison Cuddy about stamping out corruption in Chicago in this file photo from 2011. Katie O’Brien / WBEZ

Top City Investigators Point Fingers Over Police Shooting Reports

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Two of Chicago’s top investigators agree the city should take a closer look at how police officers report things like shootings and tasings.

Right now, that review isn’t happening.

And both say the other is to blame.

In a recent report, Chicago’s Inspector General found that public reporting by the Independent Police Review Authority was inaccurate and incomplete in the years before 2015

In particular, IPRA did not tell the public about 49 instances when an officer fired but did not hit anyone. In six of those instances, the agency did not investigate the shooting at all. 

In a written response, the Independent Police Review Authority’s new Chief Administrator, Sharon Fairley, pins the blame on the Chicago Police Department. 

In the six un-examined shootings, Fairley says the police never notified her agency.

And she asks pointedly why the Inspector General was not digging into the police department as she requested.

“Given that OIG has always had jurisdiction to audit and review the efficiency and effectiveness of CPD’s use of force reporting, we are unsure why you are holding IPRA accountable for this lack of transparency,” Fairley wrote. “In fact, on March 30, 2016, we sent a letter to you specifically requesting that OIG conduct an audit of CPD’s use-of-force reports due to inconsistencies we have observed in some of the reports reviewed in the context of our investigations.”

Inspector General Joe Ferguson says for now, his agency is not going to audit the police department’s use-of-force reporting.

“We received the request, we gave it serious consideration and we asked IPRA and Ms. Fairley to provide us with certain information respecting those instances where they believe that the reports … were either inaccurate or falsified. IPRA refused to give us access to that information,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson called Fairley’s accusation that he failed to respond to her request “actually somewhat extraordinary.”

He said he did not know why Fairley had responded so harshly.

Fairley used to work for Ferguson in the Office of the Inspector General. She refused to do an interview for this story. IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac referred questions to Fairley’s written response.

Sissac denied Ferguson’s claim that IPRA did not cooperate.

“As an investigatory agency, we believed that we had fulfilled our responsibility by highlighting a potential operational liability at CPD during our face-to-face meeting where we showed them examples of the police report documents and walked OIG auditors through the discrepancies,” Sissac wrote in an email.

Besides, Sissac says the Inspector General has auditing power, and should be able to investigate without IPRA’s help.

Ferguson says to do that, it would mean re-investigating thousands of police reports.

“We’re talking about reports that literally number in the thousands. And we could sample and pull a statistically reliable sample, but then what we would literally have to be doing is conducting a re-investigation of the incident that was being reported,” Ferguson said. “I appreciate that IPRA may like us to drop everything that we’re doing right now to help it. But we have to attend to the whole city. Hopefully the recommendations of the [Police Accountability] Task Force are actually implemented in a way where there are appropriate, dedicated resources and authority where these sorts of audits can be done all the time.”

In an emailed statement, Sissac minimized any rift between Fairley and Ferguson. 

“Because we at IPRA are under-resourced ourselves, we understand the challenges that OIG faces in prioritizing the projects it undertakes and respect their decision that they don’t have adequate resources to undertake such an initiative,” Sissac said. “The bigger takeaway here is that both Chief Fairley and Inspector General Ferguson believe that the City is at a pivotal moment in its history and we all must do our absolute best to make sure the city has an accountability system it deserves.”