You are hereReform Efforts
In April of 2007, former Police Superintendent Cline called a press conference to discuss an unexpected topic: resignation. Cline had been expected to retire in late 2007, but he moved up the timetable in the face of intense criticism surrounding the department’s handling of two videotaped police confrontations: the Abbate beating and the bar fight in which six officers left the scene upon the urging of an off-duty cop involved in the altercation. Cline said that these were “times of challenge” for the force, but that “Mayor Daley [had] given [him] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the best police department in the country.”24
Cline's resignation prompted a nation-wide search that, almost 8-months later, led to the appointment of Jody Weis, a 22-year FBI agent from Philadelphia with no background as a police officer.25 Weis was hired with a three year contract for $310,000, and is the highest paid civil servant in the city.26 In his first few months, Weiss shook up the force; he replaced, demoted, or reassigned 21 of 25 district commanders, ordered administrative police into high crime neighborhoods, and referred the alleged brutality case of Officer Cozzi to federal authorities. The department announced that every police car would be equipped with electronic tracking devices and officers would be asked to submit DNA samples at crime scenes.27 He promised that beats would be reorganized.28
Weis' actions brought about a near revolt amongst the rank and file. “People are doing just what they need to get through, and not any extra,” said Lt. Robert Weisskopf, president of the Chicago Police Lieutenants Union in September 2008.29 Alderman Isaac Carothers, chairman of the Police and Fire Committee, said it had led to the effect of “de-policing – they do their jobs, but they don't do it as aggressively.” During Weis' first six months in office, gun recovery was down almost 50 percent from the same period as the following year (although questions remain about the legality of the tactics used to execute gun seizures before Weis’ term), arrests had declined by over 14,000, and “self-initiated” calls – those in which a police officer initiates an intervention without instructions from dispatch- were down by 3,700.30
Between January and August 2008, police received 10,000 more calls about shots being fired and 4,000 more calls about gang disturbances than in the previous year, in addition to recording 42 more murders in 2008 than in 2007. Although increased reporting and murder rates can be attributed to a variety of circumstances, it is clear that the decreased motivation of the police force did not have a positive impact on crime. “Guys feel the superintendent and the administration [do] not have their back,” said John Pallohusky, president of the Police Sergeants Union. “If you don't feel your bosses support you, are you going to stick your neck out?”31
Perhaps it was this initial friction between Superintendent Weis and the general force that propelled Weis into a furry of actions in late 2008 and 2009 – actions that seemed designed to appease the officers in blue.
First, in October of 2008 Weis created the Mobile Strike Force (MSF), which is essentially a reformation of the shamed and disbanded SOS unit, and indeed includes many of the former officers of SOS. The MSF squads are intended to flood crime hotspots in Chicago by working in conjunction with two other roaming units – the Narcotics and Gang Section and the Targeted Response Unit. The MSF receives access to an array of armored vehicles, personal protection gear, high velocity weaponry, mobile satellite equipment, and a mandate to use tear gas on “unruly” crowds.32
Also in October of 2008, Superintendent Weis defended his decision to arm street cops with M4 semiautomatic assault rifles. The Department wanted M4s because they can hold 30 rounds, twice as many as a typical 9mm side arm, 33 and because they have a greater range than other weapons.34
In late 2008, Weis promoted a former commander of the SOS to be his head of patrol.35
In February 2009, Weis defied court orders from two federal judges to turn over lists of officers who received repeated complaints against them from the public, saying it would “reduce morale and cause officers to hesitate to act in life and death emergencies when action is necessary and appropriate to protect the officer, his or her partner and citizens.”36 Weis was held in contempt of court, and was told by US District Judge Robert Gettleman that his actions were “absolutely intolerable.”37
And still, the police on the beat didn't buy it. Greg Bella, third vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, called Weis' defiance of the court order a “cheap stunt,” and said that the superintendent “took advantage of a no-risk situation he found himself in and attempted to turn his image around.” In March of 2009, Weis received a vote of no confidence by union representatives. He is only the second superintendent to receive such a commendation in union members' memories.39
Bella claimed that the department was in a state of “complete meltdown” and placed the blame squarely at the feet of the superintendent. Clearly referencing the Cozzi case, Bella stated that “the feeling out on the street is that if an officer gets a complaint and is cleared through the process and Weis does not like the finding, he will take the case to the feds and have the officer prosecuted.”40
The facts do not play into that claim, however. The Cozzi incident was the one case Weis referred to the feds, and statistics show that Weis has actually restored more officers to duty during his tenure than during previous years – 48 officers in 2008 as compared to 34 in 2007 and 26 in 2006.41
Nevertheless, Weis continued his charm operation by authorizing officers to shoot at drivers and passengers of cars as they fled police in July,42 and demanding that the city fight more “meritless” lawsuits against police in August.43 In an interview on 60 Minutes that focused on the actions of the then-disbanded SOS unit, Superintendent Weis said, “I don't ever want police officers to think that they have to be timid. They've got to be aggressive. They've got to fight crime. All we really ask them to do is don't engage in brutality. Don't become corrupt and don't compromise your integrity.”44 But to the Chicago Tribune, Weis confessed, “I'm sure there [are] going to be some days when I may, you know, sit back in my chair and go, ‘Man, I wonder if I made the right decision?'”45
Watching Weis introduce semiautomatic weapons and near tanks into Chicago neighborhoods, reinstitute the criminally-unjust SOS unit, and renege on his promise to reorganize the beat assignments, we can't help but wonder if has Weis made the right decisions as well.
Redo or Reshuffle
Weis additionally dismantled the Office of Professional Standards and made the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) its own city department. The IPRA is charged will logging all complaints against police, but it only investigates allegations of domestic violence, excessive force, coercion, and verbal abuse.
The reaction of the public to the elevation of the IPRA was decidedly mixed, but the institution started with promising possibilities: rigid reporting requirements, subpoena powers, and an administrator independent from the police. Control of the new agency, however, was transferred from the Superintendent to the Mayor, and all recommendations made by IPRA became subject to veto by the superintendent or the Police Board.
The woman chosen to lead IPRA was Ilana Rosenweig, a respected former staff attorney for the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which monitors the Sheriff's Department.46 She did not enter an easy post in Chicago.
Rosenzweig arrived to find outdated computer and network systems, a partially unstaffed investigative unit, a demoralized staff, and a two year backlog of more than 1200 cases. “I knew it would take time to get people's trust,” Rosenzweig reported, “but it was strange that, at the first City Council meeting I attended, I [had] someone come up to me and say, 'Welcome to hell.'”47 Rosenzweig did institute changes. Now, IPRA is coordinating with Chicago Public Schools to streamline processes that concern incidents with CPD, and is working with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) to do the same.48 IPRA is actively working to close new cases within 6 months and has changed patterns of investigations. It now actually conducts interviews with officers involved in shootings – much to some of the rank and files' dismay. Robert H. Stasch, treasurer of the Chicago Police Lieutenants, now drills his members on the correct procedure for responding to questions about a shooting, even providing them with specific language. He encourages officers to say: “I responded to the ‘suspicious person’ call. I tried to stop the subject who refused to comply with me after I told him I was the police. He produced a gun. I was in fear for my life and I had no other choice so I shot several times at him and hit him.... there are no other suspects.” He then advised his members that, “since the new IPRA now responds promptly to any shootings, stand your ground if they intend to query you in more detail. Tell them you wish to consult with the union and your attorney.”49
In just the first three months of 2008, IPRA received 2,367 total complaints against officers. They determined that 590 fell under its purview, and forwarded all other eligible cases to the police department's Internal Affairs Division. Of those 590 cases, 13 were upheld and the officers were recommended for punishment.50
From April through June of 2008, IPRA closed investigations of a further 672 cases. In 230 of these, the complaint was filed by a person who refused to sign an affidavit (a sworn assertion of true testimony).51 IPRA states that, because of Illinois law and FOP contracts, unless it obtains a sworn affidavit, it cannot interview a sworn officer regarding allegations of misconduct except under rare circumstances. Approximately 40 percent of IPRA investigations are closed because of this requirement.52
On one hand, this figure could underscore what Daley, Weis, and others claim – that complaints are filed frivolously by angry Chicagoans. On the other hand, however, it could indicate a very different problem – that citizens are afraid that filing official complaints will open them up to persecution and retaliation.
The majority of the cases that IPRA examined during the second quarter of 2008 (at least 523 out of 672) did not result in any findings against the accused. Eighty-six cases were closed after the allegations were ruled unfounded, and more than 203 were unsustainable due to insufficient evidence.53
Further quarterly reports support this trend: the majority of investigations are not sustained.54 The investigatory statistics are available via a quarterly report in a larger annual report, however, which has been put online. All these measures indicate a good faith effort on Rosenzweig's part, and show an encouraging trend towards transparency and accountability.55