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Mayor Emanuel and City Inspector Close Ranks In Face of Federal Lawsuit?

Chicago (April 14, 2017)—Despite several high-profile clashes between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Joe Ferguson, the City’s Inspector General, it now appears that Ferguson is getting the green light from the mayor to keep his job for another four years. 

What accounts for the apparent thawing of relations between Emanuel and Ferguson?

Could one issue be a common interest the two men share in pushing back against a federal lawsuit brought by Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans against the City and a dozen current and former employees of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the agency that investigates police misconduct?

After all, it was Ferguson who oversaw an investigation into IPRA after Evans alleged that confidential documents that painted Evans in a stark light had been covertly released to the media by former IPRA investigator Martrice Campbell. Ferguson’s investigation and its findings played a critical role leading to the December 2015 acquittal of Evans who had been charged by Cook County prosecutors with misconduct in the course of arresting a suspect.

Following his acquittal, Evans turned the tables on his accusers. The suspicious IPRA release of a DNA report to Public Radio Station WBEZ has become a central underpinning in his federal lawsuit in which Evans claims he was framed and that release of the DNA report could have been illegal.

Commander Glen Evans

Commander Glen Evans

It’s a big story: Allegations of a frame up of a police commander who once enjoyed a sterling reputation among community members for his ability to lower crime rates in some of the City’s most violent neighborhoods.

During his bench trial before Cook County Criminal Court Judge Diane Cannon, Campbell was fired from IPRA, which had accused her of committing perjury in an unrelated case.

Now, according to media reports, Ferguson has acknowledged that misconduct took place during the IPRA investigation of Evans, but he claims, absurdly, he is unable to investigate fully the Evans matter.

And why is that? Because, Ferguson has said, he can’t find the IPRA investigator who may have committed the document leak to WBEZ.

This, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Ferguson tried to determine whether the IPRA investigator or co-workers had ‘leaked’ the DNA testing report to a news reporter who had ‘both publicly reported on and posted a PDF of the confidential report.’”

 “But, the investigator ‘left the agency and moved out of the surrounding area—beyond the reach of an OIG subpoena…’” As a result, Ferguson said his office ‘could not develop sufficient evidence directly linking the former IPRA investigator or any other city employee to the public reporting and publishing of the confidential DNA report.’”

An Inspector General in one of the country’s largest cities can’t locate Campbell for further investigation?

Then, another story broke about IPRA misconduct. According to news reports, a Chicago Police Officer has filed a lawsuit alleging that another IPRA investigator released confidential information to the officer’s ex-husband, who, she claimed, was stalking her.

From the Tribune:

“But (Emily) Hock, who filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, said she was stunned in October to uncover emails pointing to the alleged source of Weiss' inside information — an investigator with the civilian agency charged with investigating Chicago police misconduct.

 “Hock said the emails showed the investigator giving Weiss tips on how to make his complaints to police and the Independent Police Review Authority seem more substantial.

 "’I was completely almost taken off my feet,’" Hock, an eight-year department veteran now on medical leave, said in an interview in her lawyer's offices. ‘I couldn't believe that an agency that has this much power and this much access to police officers' confidential records ...was providing them to somebody who I was scared for my life from.’”

One IPRA investigator accused of releasing confidential documents to the media? That same investigator accused by her employer of committing perjury? Another investigator accused of releasing information to the ex-husband of a police officer?

How deep does the misconduct go at IPRA?

Both Emanuel and Ferguson have a vested interest in soft peddling misconduct at IPRA, while bolstering an anti-police agenda that Emanuel may see as a necessity for re-election.

Earlier this week, for example, Ferguson recommended Laura Kunard, a criminologist and researcher, to the job of Chief Inspector for the new agency to investigate police misconduct.

Kunard’s long association with Obama officials and her police reform theories are right in step with the Department of Justice findings submitted in a report just before Obama left office. President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeffery Sessions, criticized the report and hinted that he may pull them back, a decision that generated a powerful backlash in the city. 

Emanuel may be conducting an end-around Attorney General Jeffery Sessions’ rollback on the DOJ report, and it looks as if Ferguson may be part of that strategy, first in his failure to investigate the Evans case, and then in his hiring of Kunard.

Contract negotiations are approaching between Emanuel and the Fraternal Order of Police. Discipline will be a key issue. FOP members deserve to know the magnitude of misconduct that has taken place in the agency that oversees investigations of the police.

Officers complain that IPRA is not honoring due process rights and that their discipline recommendations are excessively punitive.

It’s time to hold IPRA to the same standards as the police. Time for Emanuel and the City Council to demand Ferguson conduct a full investigation of IPRA.