The finding by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability released, today, that Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo’s use of excessive force in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 2015, was unjustified resulting in the shooting deaths of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and his neighbor 55-year-old Bettie Jones is only the beginning of a long process to address the officer’s potential culpability in this tragic and heart-breaking incident.
Now that COPA has made this finding, the focus from here should be on the integrity and fairness of the process that follows. First, the superintendent must review the findings and decide whether he concurs. If not, the matter will be referred to a single member of the Chicago Police Board whose sole discretion it will be to determine whether the matter will be dismissed with no further action or heard by the full police board. In the past, I’ve voiced my concern about any case, let alone a case of this complexity and importance, being decided by a single member of the police board.
Additionally, this case also has brought to light serious concerns about the neutrality of the City’s Department of Law in this matter, which considered suing the estate of young LeGrier, thereby taking the view that Officer Rialmo’s conduct was beyond reproach. In my view, the City of Chicago Department of Law must recuse itself from any involvement in any legal proceedings arising from this incident, because it has shown a clear bias in favor of the involved officer. Consequently, any future litigation related to COPA’s findings should be overseen directly by that agency, rather than the law department, with the assistance of qualified outside counsel, as necessary or appropriate.
There’s a significant process that must take place from here and we must make sure the process has integrity and is fair so that we all have confidence that justice has been served.