Sharon Fairley Responds to the City Of Chicago’s $20 Million Code-of-Silence Lawsuit

This case is emblematic of the lack of accountability that persists within the Chicago Police Department. The facts here are deeply disturbing -- a Chicago police officer trashed a bar and assaulted two men, yet he received merely a slap on the wrist. Then his conduct led to the tragic loss of two lives and a $20 million liability that now must be paid by us taxpayers. This case, and the manner in which the department handled the misdeeds of this officer illustrates that some police officers are just unwilling or unable to hold each other accountable. This simply must change. The CPD must get serious about accountability. That requires a full commitment from the department leadership, from Superintendent Eddie Johnson and the command staff on down.  They must not only talk the talk, they must start walking the walk.

It is important to point out the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, not the civilian oversight agency, typically investigates this kind of misconduct. Unlike the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the Bureau of Internal Affairs is staffed entirely by sworn officers and, unlike COPA, has no specific reporting requirements. In my view, the Bureau of Internal Affairs should be led by a civilian chief who is appointed after a rigorous, community-based vetting process, and who has the power to make disciplinary recommendations to the superintendent without interference from the command staff below. In addition, we must demand more transparency from the Bureau of Internal Affairs with legally required regular reporting on the cases it investigates, including information such as the number and nature of the cases under investigations, the outcomes and disciplinary recommendations.

This case also has brought to light serious concerns about the judgment of the City’s law department, which, just last week unfathomably considered suing the estate of young Quintonio LeGrier, before reconsidering such action in light of the public outrage the plan engendered. In my view, the City of Chicago Department of Law must now recuse itself from any involvement in disciplinary matters arising from the officer-involved shooting of LeGrier and neighbor Bettie Jones, because the Department has shown a clear bias in favor of the involved officer. Should the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommend that disciplinary action be pursued against any involved officer, such action should be overseen directly by COPA without any involvement of the law department.