What Inspector General?
Is City Inspector General Joe Ferguson a Walking Conflict of Interest?
Just exactly what constitutes the “inspector” in the City of Chicago’s Inspector General’s office?
The question arises as yet another sign that the administration of the city’s Inspector General’s office headed by Joe Ferguson has completely imploded and is unable to fulfill its most fundamental obligations to the citizens of Chicago. Indeed, the evidence mounts that Ferguson’s office is working not for the citizens of Chicago, but for certain private political factions wreaking havoc within the city.
The latest sign is the announcement that Ferguson will take part in a panel discussion hosted by a publication called Injustice Watch, supposedly to discuss police accountability and transparency, the two buzzwords of the anti-police movement in Chicago.
Ferguson talking about accountability and transparency? That’s rich.
Let’s get rid of the obvious problems with this panel discussion right off the bat.
First, where is the representative of the police in this discussion? There’s Ferguson attending, then Maira Khwaja from the Invisible Institute and Emily Hoerner from Injustice Watch itself. Both are examples of a new trend in journalism: privately funded “media” outlets with an intense political agenda that clearly obscures the line between independent reporting and advocacy. Rest assured there will not be much arguing on behalf of the police by Hoerner and Khwaja.
So, what kind of panel discussion about the police takes place without the police?
But there are much, much graver problems with Ferguson attending the Injustice Watch event.
Injustice Watch was founded by a former law professor at Northwestern University, Rob Warden. At Northwestern, Warden served as head of the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC). There, Warden championed dozens of claims that killers were wrongfully convicted by the Chicago Police, who, his CWC regularly claimed, coerced false confessions from these suspects.
But since 2010, these claims arising from Northwestern have been falling apart under renewed scrutiny, particularly those cases associated with Northwestern’s journalism school and former professor David Protess, who left the school in 2010 when the school admitted he had lied about his investigations. In a subsequent federal lawsuit against Protess and his students, a pattern and practice of misconduct was alleged against Protess. Many of these cases Protess worked on eventually found their way to Warden’s CWC. In fact, there are strong ties between Protess and Warden. They have authored two books claiming wrongful conviction. Warden once described his relationship with Protess as “almost like a marriage.” Despite the overwhelming evidence that some of the Protess claims about his cases are completely false and his actions rife with misconduct, particularly the Anthony Porter exoneration, Warden continues to defend Protess.
Then, just a week ago in federal court, attorneys working on behalf of the city defending detectives in another wrongful conviction lawsuit made the bombshell allegations that agents working on behalf of the man claiming he was wrongfully convicted hid or got rid of evidence that pointed to the exonerated man’s guilt. One of the agents, they alleged? David Protess and the Center on Wrongful Convictions.
These are attorneys working on behalf of the City of Chicago, just as Ferguson works for the city. Could Ferguson bother to attend some of these hearings so that he could garner the evidence emerging in the federal courts alleged by the city itself?
Forget about it. While Ferguson has served as Inspector General, the Fraternal Order of Police has argued for several years that this pattern at Northwestern must be investigated and that the city should not settle any civil lawsuits originating from the school until such an investigation is completed.
The city ignored these requests, and the Rahm administration kept writing massive checks based on their claims. And Ferguson? He never said a word about these allegations.
But Ferguson’s subservience to the radical anti-police movement in the city got much worse. In the quest by the anti-police activists and their media allies to destroy as many police officers as possible in the Laquan MacDonald shooting, it was Ferguson’s office that generated what eventually became the “evidence” to justify an indictment of two police officers and a detective who were involved in the shooting or its investigation. The evidence drummed up against the officers claimed that all three conspired to cover for the shooting officer, Jason Van Dyke.
In order to get their “evidence,” Ferguson’s IG agents claimed they were conducting an administrative investigation and denied the right of the officers, who saw the frame-up taking shape, to take the Fifth.
FOP attorneys were furious.
In compelling exchanges between FOP attorney Jim McKay and Peter Neumer from Ferguson’s office, McKay argued that the Inspector General was conducting a criminal investigation of David March, not merely an administrative one:
MR. McKAY: Let me ask this, Mr. Neumer: On behalf of the Inspector General for the City of Chicago, do you believe these allegations indicate that a criminal prosecution is probable against Detective March?
MR. NEUMER: So we are conducting an administrative investigation, and we are not working with any other bodies and take no view as to the question whether criminal charges are probable against Detective March. This is an administrative investigation.
MR. McKAY: Mr. Neumer, what do you mean you take no view regarding whether criminal charges are probable?
MR. NEUMER: This is an administrative investigation. We’re not working with any other bodies on this investigation.
MR. McKAY: Your allegations, sir, include language such as, “witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and providing false statements.” This language is consistent with violations of Illinois criminal law. As such, I’m advising my client not to answer this—strike that—not to answer your questions unless ordered to do so by a superior officer. Further, Mr. Neumer, I’m asking that you, as the Assistant Inspector General conducting this statement, advise Detective March of his Constitutional rights pursuant to Miranda versus Arizona. Will you do that?
But that’s not the worst of it. The fact is that Ferguson had no business conducting an investigation of the three police officers to begin with. The reason is simple: An inspector is not supposed to have his mind made up before the investigation begins. That makes the investigation a fraud. But that’s what Ferguson did in the case against the three officers.
Ferguson had been designated a “Technical Adviser” on the Police Accountability Task Force, which issued its findings on the McDonald shooting in 2016. The report made findings about the legitimacy of the shooting before it was even investigated by any outside entity.
As a member of this task force that had already formed conclusions, Attorney James McKay demanded in a letter that Ferguson recuse himself from the Inspector General’s investigation:
These findings by the Task Force, of which you are a member, are ignorant of all of the evidence in the case and ignorant of all of the applicable Illinois law in the case. Even if you believe in good faith that the Task Force’s findings regarding the McDonald Shooting are true, it is prima facie evidence that you have pre-judged this matter pending before you. You have made up your mind without hearing from Detective David March. You are no longer, if you ever were, fair, impartial, objective and independent regarding this investigation. We respectfully request you and your office recuse yourselves from this investigation. . . . [T]here is no independent agency left that is qualified to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of the McDonald Shooting. Consequently, we ask that you dismiss or withdraw these frivolous allegations against Detective David March.
All three officers were acquitted of all charges in a bench trial.
As it is now the sorry record of selling out police officers in one venue after another by the Rahm administration is well documented and imploding almost daily in the federal courts. Ferguson is a lingering, sorry remnant of this dismal era in Chicago political and legal history.
His willingness to join in another kangaroo panel discussion where the conclusions are certainly predetermined as well is another ominous and hopefully final sign that it is time for him to go.