The city agency in charge of reviewing cases of alleged police misconduct plans to hire an outside law firm to audit as many as 40 closed officer-involved shooting cases to determine how investigations could be better managed.
Recently-appointed Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley announced yesterday that her office will hire Chicago-based law firm McGuireWoods to head up the six month review to ensure it is conducted “objectively and independently.”
A project team, which will include various subject matter experts on policing issues and use of force procedures, could be put in place as soon as next week, Fairley said. Former US Department of Justice Deputy Attorney and Acting Attorney General George Terwilliger III and Former Deputy Chief Assistant Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois Chicago office, Christina Egan, will lead the team.
“We know that here the trust in the agencies that are responsible for our public safety has been eroded,” Fairley told reporters during a press conference at its headquarters attached to the West Town Library. “And trust in our agency in particular is at an all time low since the agency was formed in 2007. I recognize that in order to restore trust in IPRA, we must understand how we lost public confidence in the first place.”
The cost and the scope of the external audit have yet to be determined. Fairley said McGuireWoods will set the criteria for choosing which cases will be reviewed and in what manner. Any police-involved shooting case dating back to 2008, of which there are closeto 700, is fair game. She offered an estimate of about 20 to 40, saying, “It would be really expensive to go back and look at each and every case.”
The purpose of the audit is not to “reopen” old cases, Fairley explained, but to “assess the quality of the investigative process and the accuracy of the findings and outcomes.”
“We want to make sure that our police department has a use of deadly force policy that allows for these investigations to be resolved fairly and in the interest of justice for everyone involved,” Fairley said.
But it’s unclear if officers previously cleared through the IPRA review process could see new action taken against them. “That may or may not be the case, and that would have to be looked at on a case by case basis,” she said.
Fairley also used yesterday’s media briefing to highlight changes she’s made in her first 100 days, including “completely revamping the leadership” and implementing a performance review process to address conflicts in the chain of command for how a case should be disposed of.
In addition to hiring a new chief of staff, Annette Moore, and a new chief investigator, Jay Westensee, Fairley has since brought on another chief investigator, Mark Garba, and a new Public Information Officer, Mia Sissac.
Like Fairley, two of those new investigators were recruited from the Chicago Office of the Inspector General: Westensee, who has been with the IG since 2005, and Garba, who did a two and a half year stint there as a forensic audit investigator, a job he held in between his time as an investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor and Chicago Public Schools.