The Chicago Police Department continues to employ more than 100 officers who knowingly provided false information during criminal investigations, according to a report released Thursday by the city’s watchdog agency.
The Office of the Inspector General found that “structural failures” in CPD’s accountability systems allow officers who have violated Rule 14 to continue working in positions “that depend upon their truthfulness and credibility.”
CPD’s Rule 14 prohibits officers from “making a false report, written or oral.” A sustained violation of the rule typically signals the end of an officer’s career because they can no longer credibly testify under oath.
The various oversight bodies that monitor for CPD misconduct all agree that sustained Rule 14 violations should automatically trigger an officer’s firing.
Of the more than 100 officers who violated Rule 14, several continue to work as beat officers and detectives, according to the IG.
“Effective enforcement of Rule 14 is what stands between us and a world in which police officers get away with lying. We cannot expect effective, accountable law enforcement if we do not take every opportunity to ensure credibility,” Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said in a statement. “We cannot keep people safe from crimes we can’t prosecute, and we cannot build trust without truthfulness.”
Rule 14 is under enforced in part because of gaps in policies and procedures, but also because of case-by-case decisions, Witzburg said in a livestream detailing the 40-page report Thursday.
The report described cases in which CPD members violated Rule 14 but weren’t separated from the department. Other case studies described Rule 14 violations not being pursued after officers were found to have lied and Rule 14 violations being expunged from officers’ disciplinary histories.
Witzburg’s investigation into the enforcement of Rule 14 was mandated by the sweeping consent decree a federal judge placed the police department under in 2019. She noted the rule banning lying was one of only a handful of department rules and trends the decree ordered her office to analyze to flag the rule’s importance.
In response to the investigation, CPD, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Board acknowledged the seriousness of Rule 14 violations. However, the departments did not accept the report’s recommendations they should fire officers who have committed violations.
The departments cannot commit to firing Rule 14 violators because officers have rights to due process guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements that prohibit predetermining discipline without considering the specific circumstances of each case, according to responses affixed to the report.
The departments pushed back on several of the report’s recommendations, arguing they were not possible or already in place. CPD agreed to conduct an annual review of where Rule 14 violators were assigned, create a new training for internal investigators to recognize violations and said it is working to better notify prosecutors of violations.
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CPD has taken the IG’s recommendations into consideration and is progressing on implementing some recommendations, the department wrote in a statement Thursday.
“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,” the department wrote.
Officers lying erodes public trust in policing, hurting its ability to function, COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten wrote in a statement Thursday.
“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,” Kersten wrote.
In its response, the police board said it has been five years since it ordered a penalty less severe than discharge for a violation. A May 2018 case in which two officers were found to have violated Rule 14 cited by the IG’s office involved an incident that took place twelve years before in 2004, the board’s leaders wrote.
The officers were early in their career and got “unusually compelling character witness testimony,” the board wrote, all factors that contributed to its more-lenient decision to suspend them for three years. The board has since ordered 21 officers fired for Rule 14 violations, it reported.
While the departments can’t commit to specific predetermined discipline now, the IG’s office could recommend City Council pass legislation to require any officer found guilty of a Rule 14 violation be fired, the board and COPA said.