“Secretive Appeals Process” Impedes Discipline of Chicago COPS
A “secretive” appeals process allows Chicago police officers to reduce the punishment for misconduct or to avoid discipline altogether. A special report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois found that between February 2010 and February 2017 Chicago police officers who appealed their discipline in 314 cases succeeded 85 percent of the time in reducing or avoiding discipline (266 out of 314 cases).
About half of all the 314 cases were resolved by an independent arbitrator; the other half were negotiated by the city and the police union. Negotiations allow the city to avoid the potential costs of arbitration. In arbitration, a process provided in the police union contract, the losing side pays the fees.
The process protects officers with multiple offenses. Fourteen officers during the period studied appealed more than one disciplinary action. Additionally, 19 officers in the period succeeded in having discipline for giving false statements overturned during investigations (a violation Rule 14 of the Chicago Police Department) and also having the case expunged from their personnel files.
The Chicago Police Department has no formal process for tracking discipline appeal cases. The Chicago Tribune and ProPublica reporters had to obtain data on cases from the records of the police department and the police oversight agency.
To keep the data in context, it is important to remember that the 85 percent success rate in mitigating punishment applies only to those officers who chose to appeal. The appeal rate ranges from 13 to 47 percent in any given year. So in at least some years, about half of all disciplinary actions are reduced or voided altogether.
Read the explosive story here. Or read it here: ChicagoDisciplineAppeals
NYPD Embarks on Major New Initiative on Officer Performance Evaluations
The New York City Police Department in October 2017 embarked on a major new initiative for performance evaluations of its officers. The new policy, recommended on October 20, 2017 by Peter Zimroth, Monitor for the 2013 settlement of the Floyd stop and frisk case, involves qualitative rather than quantitative measures of officer performance.
Zimroth explained in his October letter to the District Court, “Officers are not required to count and report the number of stops” they make. Instead, officers will be evaluated on the basis of qualitative assessments of their performance. The twelve Dimensions of performance include “Problem Identification/Solving,” “Judgment,” “Proactive Policing Strategies,” and “community Interaction.” The letter explained that departmental pressure for officers to generate high rates of stops had been a major issue in the suit against the NYPD’s stop and frisk program.
The creation of a qualitative system of performance evaluations is an extremely significant development in American policing, one that bears close scrutiny. The system described by Zimroth has not yet been fully implemented, much less evaluated. Nonetheless, it is a very important new development.
Read Zimroth’s letter to the judge, describing the new system here.
Seattle City Auditor Calls for Evaluations of City’s Three Forms of Police Oversight
The Seattle City Auditor’s Office issued a report on October 5, 2017 calling for evaluations of Seattle’s new system of three oversight agencies for the Seattle Police Department. A May 2017 ordinance finished the process of creating the three agencies. No other city or county in the U.S. has three police oversight agencies. (1) The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) continues its role of receiving and investigating citizen complaints against the police. (2) The new Office of the Inspector General conducts systemic reviews of police department policies and practices. (3) The Community Police Commission (CPC), a broadly representative body, provides community input into police policies and services.
The auditor’s report noted that “no comparable model” of police oversight exists in the country (p. 1). As a result, it recommended that “A periodic evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall system would be helpful for ensuring that the three entities are working well together” (p. 2).
Read the Seattle City Auditor’s Report here.
Inspector General Exposes Chicago Police Overtime Abuses
A report by the new Inspector General for the Chicago Police Department, issued on October 3, 2017, exposed massive waste and abuses in overtime by Chicago police officers. Between 2011 and 2016, overtime expenditures by the department rose from $42,167,958 to $146,024,259. The report identified several administrative failures that contribute to the enormous waste of public dollars. There are no meaningful controls to prevent abuse of a police union contract provision that allows crediting an officer with three hours of overtime compensation for as little as 15 minutes of actual work. The record-keeping system is still essentially paper-based, resulting is costs for manual entry, review, and approval of overtime claims. There are no management controls to “control costs, or detect and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.” Police managers acquiesce to “potentially abusive practices” in four different areas. “Paper jumping” involves officers requesting to be included in an arrest report “despite having little or no involvement in the arrest.”
Read the Inspector General’s Report here.
LAPD Inspector General Issues Report on LAPD Compliance with National “Best Practices”
The Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police Commission on May 2, 2017 issued a report on the Los Angeles Police Department’s compliance with nationally recognized “best practices” related to police accountability and police professionalism.
The subjects covered in the report include Procedural Justice, Bias-Free Policing, Transparency and Accountability, the Collection and Reporting of Data on police practices, and other issues.
The standards for “best practices” were based on the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the PERF report on Guiding Principles on Use of Force.
The Inspector General’s report serves as a national model for assessing the quality of a law enforcement agency with respect to accountability and professionalism. Read the report here: LAPD OIG Best Practices Apr2017
Police Leaders Group Issues Progressive Agenda for Crime and Criminal Justice
Law Enforcement Leaders, a group of over 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general, representing all fifty states issued a progressive report on Fighting Crime and Strengthening Criminal Justice in early February 2017. The report’s agenda includes prioritizing agency resources to combat violent crime, reducing unnecessary incarceration, increasing mental health and drug treatment programs, “bolstering” community policing, and focusing on recidivism reduction. The report is clearly a critical response to the priorities of the Trump Administration, which has promised traditional “get tough” crime-fighting policies. Read the report here.
“Consensus” Use of Force Policy by 11 Police Groups Takes Two Steps Backwards, Two Steps Forward
A National Consensus Policy on Use of Force, signed by 11 police leadership groups on January 17, 2017 took two steps backwards and two steps forward. The two steps backwards involve the policies on warning shots and shots at moving vehicles.
The warning shot policy does include some limitations (“use of deadly force is justified;” “will not pose a substantial risk of injury or death”), but there is a notable lack of detail that would clarify exactly when warning shots can be fired. Warning shots were first prohibited by the New York City Police Department in 1972. Virtually all departments today prohibit them today, on the grounds that they pose a serious risk to community residents.
The shots of moving vehicles policy also contains qualifications that limit when shots can be fired (the “person in the vehicle is threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle;” the driver “deliberately intended to strike an officer or another person” with the vehicle). The New York City Police Department banned shots at or from moving vehicles in 1972. Shots at moving vehicles are banned by most departments today because of the high degree of risk to by-standers in the vicinity. The new “Consensus” policy opens a door that most departments have for years felt it best to keep closed.
The new “Consensus” policy actually does not represent a consensus among national law enforcement groups. The two national sheriffs groups declined to sign the report, according to the Washington Post, because they felt it was too restrictive rather than too lax. The report was also not signed by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) which issued a very progressive report on police use of force a year ago. The PERF report recommended that police departments adopt more restrictive policies and move to a higher standard than set by the Supreme Court. The report also offered detail discussions of how better training on tactical decision-making can reduce the need to use force in the first place. The “Consensus” report clearly appears as a rebuttal to the PERF report.
The two positive aspects of the Consensus report involve a recommendation of de-escalation and also that officers “have a duty to prevent or stop the use of excessive force by another officer.”
Read the Consensus report here.
Read the 2016 PERF report here.
DOJ Enters Consent Decree with Baltimore, Files Finding Letter on Chicago
Rushing to complete major investigations of police departments before the advent of the Trump administration, the Justice Department signed a Consent Decree with Baltimore on Wednesday, January 12 and issued its Findings Letter on the Chicago Police Department on January 13th.
Read the Baltimore Consent Decree here: Baltimore ConsentDecree 2017
And the Chicago Findings Letter here: ChicagoFindings2017
NACOLE Releases Two Reports on the Current Status of Citizen Oversight of the Police
The National Association for Citizen Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) released two reports on the current status of citizen oversight of the police in the U.S. today. The two reports are the most thorough assessments of citizen oversight available. Funded by the Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Justice Department, the two reports cover the history of citizen oversight, the nature of the different forms of oversight, and issues related to the effectiveness of oversight. Among other things, the reports provide a precise estimate of the number of oversight agencies as of 2016: 144 agencies.
Read the first report, Joseph De Angelis, Richard Rosenthal and Brian Buchner, Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement” A Review of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Various Models (2016) here.
Read the second report, Joseph De Angelis, Richard Rosenthal and Brian Buchner, Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement: Assessing the Evidence (2016) here.
DOJ Issues Report on Pattern or Practice Reform Efforts Since 1994
The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department on January 4, 2015 issued a 53-page report on its activity related to pattern or practice investigations of police departments since 1994. The report officers the most complete data available on the number of investigations and settlements. (It does not, however, include either the January 1917 consent decree with Baltimore or the January 1917 Findings Letter on the Chicago Police Department.) Read the report here: DOJP&PReport2017