CHICAGO (CN) — The law firm Jones Day released the findings Thursday of its investigation into the 2019 unjustified police search of Black Chicago resident Anjanette Young's home, an intrusion that led to a $2.9 million settlement offer.
Though it cleared Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration of malicious wrongdoing, the investigation found "failures in oversight and accountability" in her office as well as the Chicago Police Department, the City Department of Law and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in their handling of the situation and its aftermath. The investigation was lead by retired federal judge Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee.
Young sued the city in federal court in August 2019, after police officers barged into her home in February of that year on a no-knock warrant and handcuffed her while she was naked in front of a dozen male officers. Body-cam footage obtained by Young and local media outlet CBS2 revealed that police made Young wait naked for more than 40 minutes, with only a loose blanket covering her, before a female officer arrived and took her to get dressed. Police also did not show Young their search warrant for near an hour, despite her repeated requests.
Young told police 43 times over the course of the search that she was innocent and that they had the wrong home. When she finally saw the warrant, she told police that the individual they were looking for, one Andy Simpson, had not lived at the address for the entire four years she had been living there alone. Simpson had never even received mail at the address during those four years, and Young had never met him. The police's only listed source for securing the warrant was J. Doe, an anonymous informant whose intel the police did not adequately verify.
"In direct violation of CPD policy, defendant Chicago police officers involving in obtaining or approving the search warrant for [Young's address] performed no independent investigation or surveillance to verify that the 'J. Doe' confidential informant had provided current or accurate information regarding where Mr. Simpson resided or could be found," Young's 2019 lawsuit states.
The complaint says the officers "could have made several simple inquiries to verify the information they had allegedly been provided by their confidential source," but "failed to conduct any investigation or verification."
On Wednesday, the City Council decided to wash its hands of the whole affair by voting to offer Young a $2.9 million settlement. In a press conference following the vote, Lightfoot deflected questions regarding the Chicago Police Department's continued use of no-knock warrants and whether the incident should prompt the City Council to further revise municipal search warrant policies.
"The City Council doesn't typically dictate policy for the police department, so that would be a very unusual departure," the mayor said. "And as you well know, we're under something called a consent decree. Every policy or practice that the police department does is scrutinized heavily."
Lightfoot added that since Young's case became public, the CPD's search warrant policy has been through "at least two" revisions, but didn't elaborate on what those revisions entailed.
Ironically, a culture of "that's not my job" is a major deficiency the Jones Day investigation found in the city offices' response to the issue. It claimed that multiple city employees failed to "assume personal responsibility" for Young's traumatic experience.
"The city failed Ms. Young on February 21, 2019, and then compounded this failure with additional failures in how its departments handled matters in the aftermath of the botched search," according to an executive summary of the report. "While not malicious, these deficiencies generally resulted from city employees failing to recognize and effectuate the values of public service, failing to take ownership and to assume personal responsibility for particular aspects of the City's response to the search, and also from structural obstacles outside of those employees' control, including lack of clear processes and procedures."
The latest version of the City's search warrant procedures, which became effective this past May, provides details that Lightfoot did not mention Wednesday. Under the new policy, no-knock warrants are still allowed, though only with the approval of high-ranking officers. Only SWAT officers are allowed to act on the warrants, whereas before any officer could do so, and now at least one female officer must be present for any conducted search.
These revisions went into effect three weeks after the city's Office of the Inspector General reported that about 72% of all residential search warrants issued in the city between 2017 and 2020 were for the homes of Black men. The changes are less sweeping than those proposed by several Black alderwomen in February. Under the alderwomen's proposed ordinance, named the Anjanette Young Ordinance, no-knock warrants would be completely abolished.
"No Chicago Police Department member shall execute a no-knock warrant and no Chicago Police Department member shall seek from any court a warrant authorizing a member executing the warrant to make entry into a residence without first knocking, announcing his or her office, and giving the occupants a reasonable amount of time, no less than 30 seconds, to respond," the ordinance proposes.
Lightfoot said Wednesday she welcomed further suggestions for changes to the search warrant policy from the sponsors of the Anjanette Young Ordinance, but this is belied by her past opposition to its proposed changes. She said in May that the ordinance would inhibit police officers' ability to react quickly to dynamic situations.
"The policy's been in place for some time, and I feel confident that it's the right policy," the mayor said.
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