September 28, 2020

Inspector General report says COPA not releasing video in some police use-of-force cases on time

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CHICAGO — The city’s deadline for releasing video in cases of alleged police use-of-force is 60 days. However, a new report from the Inspector General’s office finds the Civilian Office of Police Accountability is missing the mark in some cases. 

After reviewing COPA’s accountability compliance for more than 100 use of force cases from June 2016 to February 2019, the Inspector General’s office found materials for 33 were not released on time. 

Reasons why included what COPA called an oversight — employees using the notification date instead of the date the incident actually occurred. In some cases COPA was late to identify an incident where the release of materials was mandated. The report also noted a backlog of files turned over from OEMC blamed on staffing issues 

Deborah Witzburg is the deputy inspector general for public safety. Last week, the office released an advisory saying COPA’s practice of administratively terminating some investigations without reaching a finding be inconsistent and inaccurate. 

The video policy was created following outrage over the handling of the killing of Laquan McDonald. 

Jamie Kalven with the Invisible Institute reported extensively on the McDonald case and the 2018 police shooting of Harith Augustus in South Shore. Some video from that shooting was not released until a year later. 

COPA released a statement saying in part “COPA remains resolute in its commitment to timely provide material to the public and does not deliberately delay release of material in the absence of legal prohibition.” 

The statement goes on to say COPA has or will modify processes to incorporate the Recommendations from Inspector General’s office.