Is COPA Using Media Leaks To Push Agenda?
Did the city agency charged with overseeing police misconduct allegations leak information to the media about an ongoing investigation against a police officer . . . again?
It’s beginning to look that way.
Tribune reporter Dan Hinkel broke the story Friday about an alleged altercation at a Northwest Side bar involving an off-duty officer who was involved in a 2015 fatal police shooting.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) recently ruled that the 2015 shooting in which the officer fatally shot a mentally ill man charging him with a baseball bat was not justified. A woman was also accidentally and tragically fatally shot in the incident.
The FOP condemned the ruling by COPA that the shooting was not justified.
Then, on Friday, Hinkel got wind of a reported altercation involving the same officer several weeks ago at a bar and that COPA was investigating it.
Fraternal Order of Police accused COPA of using the incident at the bar to put pressure on CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson to bolster their ruling on the 2015 shooting. FOP President Kevin Graham also questioned whether the media getting wind of the bar altercation was part of that pressure:
Was the source of Hinkel’s information someone at IPRA?
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time either COPA or its previous incarnation, IPRA, was accused of releasing confidential information against a CPD member.
A lawsuit last year against IPRA accused the agency of releasing a confidential state police lab report to Chicago reporter Chip Mitchell. The lab report indicated that a DNA sample taken from the gun of CPD Commander Glenn Evans tested positive as coming from a gang member Evans had arrested after a foot chase.
The state police report was released by Mitchell, a reporter for the NPR station WBEZ, and portrayed as positive evidence against Evans. The report became crucial evidence in criminal charges brought against Evans. But in the criminal trial, attorneys for Evans argued, bolstered by expert testimony, that the DNA sample was merely the result of contact with the offender in the course of the arrest.
Throughout the trial, attorneys for Evans also brought forth evidence that, they claimed, revealed a wholly biased IPRA investigation against Evans.
Evans was acquitted of all charges, with Judge Diane Cannon agreeing that the DNA report did not point to misconduct by Evans.
Then there’s former Chicago Police Officer Emily Hock, who had been involved in an ongoing domestic dispute with a former boyfriend and alleged that he had been stalking her. In October 2016, she discovered that an investigator at IPRA had released private information to her ex-boyfriend Kristopher Weiss.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Two years into a bitter child custody battle, Chicago police Officer Emily Hock said she became fearful after her son’s father seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of her daily work schedule...
But 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.”
Hock’s lawsuit against an IPRA investigator and the city of Chicago alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress, privacy violations and failure by the city to properly supervise the investigator.
And there is also the case where an attorney representing the officer accused in the Laquan McDonald shooting claimed that IPRA had released information from IPRA to Chicago writer Jamie Kalven, a founding member of the Invisible Institute.
From the Sun-Times:
[The officer’s] attorneys said at a hearing Tuesday that longtime South Side activist Jamie Kalven was leaked information from the Independent Police Review Authority, the police oversight agency that last month was re-launched as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability just weeks after the shooting, tainting evidence that was subsequently obtained by investigators from the State’s Attorney’s Office and FBI.
Now information from a COPA investigation has found its way to Tribune reporter Dan Hinkel.
What is particularly suspicious about three of the four episodes is that the reporters involved are believed by many police officers as being decidedly biased against CPD officers. They have routinely published articles alleging police misconduct but refuse to cover evidence of wrongdoing among activists and law firms alleging police misconduct.
Indeed, Jamie Kalven’s organization, the Invisible Institute, is, according to their website, supported by prominent wrongful conviction law firm Loevy & Loevy.
Recently, Hinkel published an article that infuriated many police officers and their supporters when he quoted former IPRA director Sharon Fairley as saying that the police are “squealing” when the FOP criticized both IPRA and COPA as being unfair in their investigations
The signs that COPA is using the media to push an agenda are growing. It’s time the city got a handle on it, found out who is doing any leaking, and why.
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