According to recently reviewed documents, the way the city of Chicago investigates fatal shootings by police officers violates state law–and recommendations to fix the issue have been ignored for nearly a year, reports the Chicago Sun Times. According to the documents, the city isn’t complying with the Illinois Police and Community Relations Act, which governs investigations regarding whether a police officer who shot someone to death should be charged with a crime. Under the 2016 law, a criminal investigation into a fatal shooting by police has to be done by two investigators from outside the agency that employs the officer involved. It says one of the investigators doing a criminal investigation must be a specially trained “lead homicide investigator.” Such investigators must also be sworn officers. However, in Chicago, the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability conducts the administrative investigations into whether an officer violated department rules in a fatal shooting, as well as criminal investigations into whether he or she should be charged with a crime, despite the fact that none of its investigators are sworn law enforcement officers, and COPA isn’t a law enforcement agency. Officials say that means its criminal investigations are being conducted illegally.
Hillard Heintz, a security consulting firm hired to study the matter and offer options on how the city can comply with the law, came up with five options including one in which an Illinois State Police task force — which works with the Cook County sheriff’s and state’s attorney’s offices to conduct such criminal investigations for suburban police departments — also would handle Chicago’s cases. It estimated that would cost $33 million over five years, plus up to $50 million for an office in Chicago for the task force. That option is the “most feasible,” the consultant said. Another option it gave was to create a city-led task force that would include the state police and other outside law enforcement agencies. But the consultants said the “best option” would be for the city to get the Illinois Legislature to amend the state law to allow civilian COPA employees to conduct those criminal investigations.