A new report from Chicago’s inspector general accuses the Chicago Police Department, and other agencies tasked with investigating officer discipline, with failing to adequately punish officers who’ve been caught lying or making false statements.
The report, released Thursday by Chicago Office of Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, found that CPD — along with the Bureau of Internal Affairs, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Board — have not consistently fired officers or civilians on the force who have been caught making false statements or reports.
Witzburg said these agencies have fallen short.
“The agencies comprising Chicago’s police accountability system do not ensure that CPD members with Sustained Rule 14 violations are separated from the Department, despite statements of intention to the contrary,” the report states.
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CPD’s Rule 14 specifically prohibits officers from “making a false report, written or oral.”
The OIG’s report found that as recently as November, CPD “employs or has recently employed” at least 110 members of the Chicago Police Department who had been found to have made false statements or reports.
Witzburg’s office cited examples where in 2019 the Bureau of Internal Affairs’ then-deputy director made a public statement that “since approximately 2008, if an individual has a sustained Rule 14 violation, we recommend separation.”
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But the OIG report cited three examples in 2012, 2017 and 2019 where BIA recommended disciplinary action that fell short of firing.
The inconsistencies, the OIG report noted, “raise serious concerns about the rigor, fairness, and consistency with which Rule 14 is enforced.”
“The appropriate punishment for violating that rule is firing. It’s being fired from the police department,” Witzburg told NBC 5 Investigates Thursday. “We cannot ask people to trust a police department which lets its members get away with lying,” Witzburg added.
Officers making false statements can also have a direct impact on court cases if they’re placed on so-called Brady Lists when prosecutors recommend not using them as witnesses because their credibility has been questioned.
NBC 5 Investigates has obtained thousands of pages of memos from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office telling prosecutors not to call hundreds of officers as witnesses after judges questioned their credibility.
One example from a 2016 memo involved a Cook County Circuit Court judge saying that a Chicago police officer: “… had a reckless diregard for the truth… [had] zero credibility with the court, and referred to the officer as an absolute liar.”
In another memo, a judge called a Chicago police officer’s court testimony “demonstrably untrue,” adding, “I don’t think I can find the rest of his testimony to be reliable or credible either.”
Yet another memo says that another judge said an officer’s testimony was “complete pretext.” According to the court transcript in that case, the judge expressed frustration at “…the testimony of these officers who go on the record and lie.”
All three of the officers from those memos are still on the force, according to the city’s online employee database.
Witzburg said CPD and the other agencies have “talked the talk” about terminating officers caught making false statements but haven’t “walked the walk” when it comes to actual discipline.
The OIG’s report also makes a series of recommendations, including calling on CPD to more consistently fire officers or civilians caught making false statements.
In its reply to the agency, CPD said that it “disagrees with this recommendation as it fails to take into consideration actions beyond the control of the department.”
Members of Chicago Police Department can file a grievance when they’re facing disciplinary matters and challenge their potential punishment, the department noted.
Settlement agreements can also impact the outcomes of the disciplinary matters.
In an e-mailed statement to NBC 5 Investigates, CPD wrote: “Chicago Police Department members are held to the highest standards. Our sworn and civilian members are expected to act with integrity as we work to build and maintain credibility and trust among the communities we serve. We have taken the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations under consideration and have already made progress to complete and implement several of the recommendations.” COPA sent a statement that read in part: “COPA is firm in its stance that officers found to have willfully lied in an official report or statement must be held accountable. These actions not only negatively impact the Department’s reform efforts but can also undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.”