Judge Grants Protection To COPA in Police Shooting
Circuit Court Judge James N. O’Hara ruled Wednesday that the agency investigating allegations of police misconduct will not have to turn over the findings of third parties used by the agency in the investigation of a 2015 fatal police shooting.
Claiming “consultant privilege,” Judge O’Hara ruled that third parties hired by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) to investigate the 2015 fatal police shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and an innocent bystander, Bettie Jones, by Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo will not have to reveal any conclusions made by at least two outside parties.
COPA has ruled that the shooting of LeGrier, who wielded a bat and charged at officers responding to a domestic disturbance call, was unjustified. The FOP has strongly denounced the ruling.
From the Sun-Times:
Leaders of the rank-and-file Chicago Police officers’ union on Friday slammed the city’s police oversight agency, demanding a “clarification” on use-of-force policies a day after Officer Robert Rialmo’s 2015 shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones was ruled unjustified.
“If an offender is wielding a bat against an officer, must he or she wait until they are actually struck before they can defend themselves?” union officials wrote in a statement.
“Must they wait until they see a muzzle flash of a gun before any attempts to protect their lives and those of the public would be deemed reasonable? How far can the weapon be found from an offender before an officer’s use of force is deemed legitimate? Six feet? Ten feet? Fifteen?”
In response to COPA’s ruling that the shooting was unjustified, attorneys for the FOP filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request. That request ultimately revealed that at least two outside parties had been hired by the city in their investigation, but the hiring of these investigators and their findings were kept secret. The city also failed to turn over the findings to prosecutors as well as Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who now must decide whether Officer Rialmo should be recommended for firing.
According to the Sun-Times, Johnson sent a letter to COPA:
Johnson has a 60-day window in which to decide whether he will recommend that the Police Board fire Rialmo — but in the letter, he makes it clear that he won’t start the clock until COPA comes clean with the “entire file and relevant evidence” in the case.
“Despite the fact that COPA informed the media of its final opinion, CPD has not received the entire file. I am requesting that COPA confirm that CPD has everything that COPA consulted or relied upon in rendering its opinion in this matter and ask that COPA provide every document that is relevant to this investigation, including but not limited to exhibits, witness interviews, videos and expert reports,” Johnson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“It is only upon receipts of those materials that COPA will have complied with the ordinance and it is only then that CPD can complete a full review of this investigation.”
Judge O’Hara’s ruling means a key question remains unanswered: Did these third parties conclude that the shooting of LeGrier, who was wielding a bat when Officer Rialmo shot him, was justified?
Another question emerges, this one about the Chicago media: How will the Chicago media respond to the ruling by Judge O’Hara? Strikingly, there was no report by the media about O’Hara’s ruling. Will Chicago’s reporters now ignore the findings of these third parties?
Imagine for a moment if the city were keeping secret third-party findings in a story that might cast a shadow on a Chicago Police detective. Would the reporters remain silent about it, then? Would they challenge such a ruling?