Noting that the criminal justice system failed two African-American men who died while in the custody of the Chicago Police, and in light of the subsequent $6.5 million payout the Council approved to their families, Finance Chairman Ed Burke (14) is calling for more accountability to make sure that police procedures are properly followed.

Ald. Burke introduced an ordinance at yesterday’s City Council meeting that would require the Police Superintendent to refer all cases involving the death of a suspect in custody to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

According to the ordinance, an “officer involved-death” includes any death that results directly from “an action or directly from an intentional omission, including unreasonable delay involving a person in custody or intentional failure to seek medical attention when the need for treatment is apparent.” Any police-involved death that occurs while an officer is off duty would fall under this rule, as well, if that officer was “performing activities that are within the scope of his or her law enforcement duties.” The ordinance would take effect upon passage.

Public Safety Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30), Budget Chair Carrie Austin (34), and Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Chairman Walter Burnett (27) are listed as co-sponsors.

Ald. Austin’s constituent, Philip Coleman, was one of those victims whose family will receive a $4.95 million settlement from the city. After suffering a psychotic episode in which he attacked his mother and father, Coleman was taken into police custody where he was tased more than a dozen times before he was taken to a hospital and given an antipsychotic drug from which, according to the medical examiner’s report, he suffered a “rare allergic reaction.” The attorney representing Coleman retained an expert witness on the drug who argued Coleman’s death resulted from dehydration, stress, and physical encounters stemming from his time in lockup, according to testimony from Steve Patton, Corporation Counsel with the city’s Law Department.  

Ald. Burke also worked with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) on a separate police-related ordinance also introduced yesterday that would require members of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) appear before Burke’s Finance Committee when police-related settlement cases are brought to the body for approval.

Under the measure, representatives from the city agency that reviews cases of police misconduct would be required to provide aldermen with a “written status report on any and all investigations involving department members who are named parties to said lawsuits or controverted claims.”

In recent Finance Committee meetings held post-Laquan McDonald in which legal settlements are reviewed, aldermen had asked the city’s Corporation Counsel to provide details on these IPRA investigations only to be told that the Law Department has limited information, and that their inquiries would be provided through the chair at a later date.