A controversial ruling by the City’s police oversight agency that a fatal 2015 police shooting was unjustified took another major hit this week.
Based on a Freedom of Information Request by attorneys working for the Fraternal Order of Police, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) revealed that the agency had employed an outside law firm as part the agency’s investigation of a 2015 fatal police shooting.
COPA had ruled last December that a Chicago Police Officer who fatally shot a bat-wielding assailant was not justified. The FOP strongly denounced the ruling.
In response, the FOP instructed its attorneys to begin reviewing and researching the COPA investigation. Sure enough, in response to a FOIA, the agency revealed it had hired an outside law firm and paid more than $17,000 to a Boston based police official, Lieutenant Harrington. This third party law firm and Harrington were not mentioned in COPA’s final report on the shooting.
Now, the FOP has learned that COPA employed yet another outside investigator. In a motion filed on behalf of COPA’s attorneys in Cook County Circuit Court yesterday, attorney Dan Noland wrote the following:
Counsel has been advised McGuire Woods retained a second consultant in connection with the shooting around the same time as Lt. Harrington; however, counsel has been advised that this second consultant never submitted an invoice or report to IPRA or McGuire Woods on this case. COPA asserts the consultant’s privilege as to this second consultant as well.
So now a third consultant was “retained” by an outside law firm working on behalf of COPA. A litany of questions now emerge. Why is COPA hiring outside parties to do their investigations? Why are they keeping their work out of their reports? Were the findings of these consultants included in the files COPA submitted to prosecutors and the Superintendent of Police?
And most of all: Where is the transparency COPA once promised to the public?
The emergence of yet another shadowy consultant not mentioned by COPA until the FOP filed a FOIA also calls into question the media coverage of the case. Why does a police union discover groundbreaking developments, but the media does not?
The FOP has questioned the relationship between COPA, as well as its predecessor IPRA, with the local media, alleging that COPA is using a biased local media to engineer public opinion about high-profile cases, including putting pressure on CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson to rule the shooting unjustified. The FOP called on the City’s Inspector General to investigate media leaks by the agency.