STATEMENT: Sharon Fairley responds to gross underfunding of police accountability agency in 2018 City budget

CHICAGO (November 21, 2017)--Following is a statement from Attorney General candidate and former Civilian Office of Police Accountability Administrator Sharon Fairley:

“I am deeply disappointed by the Chicago City Council’s decision today to pass a 2018 budget for the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) that is woefully inadequate and inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the funding requirement set by the City Council when they created the agency by ordinance in October 2016.

“In the aftermath of the release of the Laquan McDonald video, I stepped in to lead the troubled Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). It became clear that creating a new police accountability agency with a clearer mission, true independence and, perhaps most importantly, all the resources to get the job done, would be critical to building public trust. 

“There is a broad consensus that underfunding was one of the main impediments to IPRA’s ability to conduct quality and timely police misconduct investigations. This is why I, along with many community groups and political leaders, fought to ensure that the law creating COPA established an annual minimum budget totalling at least 1 percent of the overall Chicago Police Department budget.

“I was troubled, then, to learn that this year’s proposed budget falls short of what the COPA team say they need to operate at full capacity. To shortchange the work of ensuring police accountability in Chicago at this turning point will hamstring COPA just as it needs the most support and public buy-in. 

“Understandably, once the City announced plans to close IPRA and build a new agency to take its place, a significant number of IPRA personnel left the agency, leaving the skeletal remaining staff to handle an already burgeoning backload of cases.

“When COPA was launched in September, it was saddled with a backlog of over 940 cases, with an average age of well over a year. 

“COPA staff submitted a well-planned 2018 budget proposal that detailed the additional staffing and resources that would be necessary to not only manage the agency’s expanded jurisdiction, but also to address this unwieldy case backlog.

“The current proposed 2018 budget falls significantly short of the resources the agency needs to deliver on its mission. 

“Without sufficient resources, the quality and timeliness of the investigative process will most definitely suffer, and I fear the agency will not be able to fulfill is role in the police accountability infrastructure – disappointing the officers and the community it serves. I urge all Chicagoans to call on City Hall and the City Council to address this as soon as possible.”

Fairley is running in the March Democratic primary election to fill the Attorney General seat to be vacated by Lisa Madigan, who is not running for reelection. Fairley is a former Assistant United States Attorney and Assistant Attorney General. Most recently, she served as Chief Administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an agency which she and her leadership team designed and built from the ground up in the aftermath of the release of video of the death of Laquan McDonald in 2015. Prior to her work at COPA, Fairley served as First Deputy and General Counsel to the City of Chicago Office of the Inspector General. 

Fairley earned her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a BS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and holds an MBA in Marketing from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fairley lives in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge community on the Southwest Side. She is the mother of two adult children.