CHICAGO (CN) – A union representing Chicago police officers claims in court that an oversight commission is violating Illinois law by using uncertified personnel to lead investigations into officer-involved shootings.
The union also claims that video recorded on patrol is not being destroyed within 90 days, as required by the Illinois Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday but the clerk’s office withheld its release until Tuesday.
According to the complaint filed by attorney Joel D’Alba of Asher Gittler & D’Alba, an Illinois-certified lead homicide investigator must oversee investigations into fatal police shootings per the Police Community Relations Improvement Act.
The union claims the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, has been using investigators who are not state-certified. Since October 2016, more than 155 investigations into officers remain open, according to the complaint.
“Officers involved in such investigations have been injured by not receiving a timely conclusion to their cases from COPA,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of these delays and being placed in no-pay status, officers have experienced mental health and related stress, and fear for retaliation from individuals involved in criminal activity that lead to an officer-involved death.”
City spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city had not yet received the lawsuit and could not comment. COPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours Tuesday.
The police union says the COPA investigators oversee personnel gathering evidence. The investigators also identify witnesses to interview. When COPA completes the investigation it sends a report to prosecutors in the county where the officer-involved shooting occurred, the union says.
“The submission of such a report by non-state certified lead homicide investigators to be used for criminal purposes places the plaintiffs in the position of a criminal matter being considered based on a report that is prepared by an investigator who does not have the proper certification and standing from the State Standards Board,” the 19-page filing states.
The union notes that under the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, the city must destroy the recordings unless a recorded incident led to a complaint, the discharging of a firearm, or “death or great bodily harm.”
Other exceptions include recordings of an officer who is part of an internal investigation, or footage that has “evidentiary value in a criminal proceeding.”
Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 wants the court to order the city to comply with the Police Community Improvement Relations Act by making sure investigators into fatal shootings are state-certified and destroy all “unflagged” videos.