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Lisa Madigan op-ed: Mayor, don’t do an end run on police reform

Posted on: June 12th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

From the June 10, 2017 Edition of the Chicago Tribune – An Op-Ed from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on the Issue of Police Reform:

In December 2015, after the release of the video of Laquan McDonald’s horrifying death, I requested that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation of the Chicago Police Department. The Justice Department found pervasive problems, including the unconstitutional use of deadly and excessive force by officers, and a lack of CPD resources, guidance, policies, training, supervision and accountability that have endangered citizens and police officers for decades.

With a new administration in the White House, the Justice Department has new leadership with distinctly different priorities.

The fact that the city is now negotiating police reforms with a Justice Department that fundamentally does not agree with the need for constitutional policing is ludicrous. And the city’s apparent decision not to release the agreement until it is final is unacceptable.

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel is serious about police reform, he will understand that the call for accountability is not an affront to him or his leadership, but a process that is required because those of us who have lived in Chicago for our entire lives have been down this road too many times. We refuse to allow the city to take another shortcut that leads to a dead-end. The road to reform is long and bumpy, but it is the only route to a safer Chicago.

The only way Chicago can rebuild the broken trust between some of its citizens and the police is through a transparent reform process that includes community advocates who have pushed for reform for years.

The city must negotiate with stakeholders to reach an agreement, not announce one after its details have been decided behind closed doors.

Reforms must also be enforceable. The Department of Justice’s report specifically called for a court-ordered consent decree requiring the reforms to be overseen by a federal judge. The city can agree to a federal court process that avoids the unnecessary expense of legal wrangling and instead focuses on getting to the right results.

Unconstitutional policing has never made us safer. Instead, Chicago is disgraced with the highest homicide rate in the country and a horrid history of police torture and brutality directed mainly against African-American and Latino communities.

It is an insult to police officers committed to reducing the violence in our city that they have not received the support they need to do their jobs properly and safely and that they often bear the brunt of public anger when city government deserves much of the blame.

For more than 50 years, the city has failed repeatedly to address police misconduct, with grave consequences, in particular, for communities of color. There has never been systemic and comprehensive police reform in Chicago because there has never been an enforceable court order requiring it.

This is an important moment. We must stop wasting lives, money and time. Chicago’s leaders must commit at last to the difficult work of real police reform.

Lisa Madigan is the Illinois attorney general. Click here to see the article.

Wisconsin Works to Decrease Police Misconduct

Posted on: May 16th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Police misconduct and brutality are in the news more often than not these days, especially here in Chicago.  There are countless news stories about police officers abusing their power, and it’s left a broken trust between communities and the local law enforcement.  Now, our neighbors to the north are trying to do something to stop instances of police misconduct from happening.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has created a database of officers that have resigned during an internal investigation, quit before being fired, or have been fired with cause.  The DOJ asks law enforcement agencies to report any officer that fits these categories, so they remain flagged if they try to get another job in law enforcement.

The theory behind this database is to stop officers from hopping agency to agency and continuing to rack up allegations and problems.  Sadly, this happens all too often, and there has not been a way to track it.  Now, if a flagged officer tries to apply for another job, the agency will be alerted to any issues following that officer.  Wisconsin hasn’t had many instances of police problems, and since the creation of this database in January, 59 officers have been flagged.

It also appears that many people in the state are behind this idea, including the head of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the largest union in the state.  He said, “… no one wants a bad cop out of the profession more than a good one.”

We are excited Wisconsin has stepped forward and created this database because it is a move in the right direction to ending police misconduct.  Steps like this can help start to rebuild the trust between the public and law enforcement, which is at an all-time low right now.  We hope that more states take notice of this database and make pushes to create their own.  The only way we can end this problem is to work together, and this is a good start.

Sworn Affidavit Rule Hinders Police Misconduct Investigations

Posted on: February 27th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

The Department of Justice recently investigated the use of excessive force by the Chicago Police Department. Last month, they released a report about their findings and one of the major issues they came across was the sworn affidavit rule.

The state law requires any citizen who makes an allegation of police misconduct against any CPD officer sign a sworn affidavit.  The Fraternal Order of Police pushed for this law to be put into place to lower the number of false allegations against the police, but it has deterred people from even coming forward with allegations.

People who experience police misconduct might be less willing to come forward and sign an affidavit because they fear retaliation.  Others already believe the system is corrupt and their voice won’t be heard so they simply do not report misconduct at all.  And those that have been charged with a crime or are actively suing the police follow their lawyer’s orders and refrain from providing verified statements before their trial.

There is a way to override this law, but the DOJ found that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) along with the Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA) are not actively pursuing this route. In fact, IPRA closed about 618 complaints per year since 2011 because there was no sworn affidavit. Similarly, BIA closed about 537 complaints per year.

Both of these agencies are in charge of investigating police misconduct, but the fact that they are closing almost half of the complaints against the force because there is no sworn affidavit is extremely concerning.  They no longer actively seek out complainants or push for overrides of the law.  In the last five years, overrides were only used 17 times, and 11 of those instances were in 2016.

IPRA is being reworked as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability later this year and the head, Sharon Fairley, is working to make things better. We hope the new agency can recognize the sworn affidavit rule as a real roadblock and work to better hold the police force accountable.

Police Delay Reporting Officer-Involved Shootings, According To IPRA Report

Posted on: February 24th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Whenever there is a police officer involved in a shooting, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) has to be notified – no questions asked. IPRA recently released a review that states Chicago police routinely delay reporting shootings where an officer is involved.

After looking at 24 shootings related to Chicago police, IPRA found there was an average of 34 minutes between the incident and calling it in. In one suicide incident, the police didn’t notify the agency until six hours later.

So why is this an issue? The minutes right after an incident takes place are most critical to an investigation as that is when critical evidence is gathered and steps are taken to make sure everything goes according to proper procedure. Acting quickly also keeps the scene from being compromised.

Even more concerning from the report was that two incidents were not reported to IPRA at all, as well as having delayed communications with the Cook County medical examiner’s office, firefighters, and paramedics. In some of the incidents, the medical examiner wasn’t able to gather any useful information to help the investigation because too much time had passed.

Mayor Emanuel and other authorities say they are working to correct all the issues with the Chicago Police Department and investigating agencies. IPRA is going to be replaced later this year by the Citizens Office of Police Accountability and will have a larger budget and better-trained investigators.  But other than this change, it is unclear what else authorities in Chicago will do to fix these major problems highlighted by both the Department of Justice and IPRA.

What is clear is that the citizens of Chicago are fed up with this type of behavior from the Police Department. Here at Romanucci & Blandin, we’re dedicated to making sure victims receive the justice and transparency they deserve. If you feel like the police haven’t done their part or you’re a victim of police misconduct, please do not hesitate to call us.

Chicago Police Misconduct Attorneys Analyze New Department of Justice Report, Highlighting Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Civil Rights by the Chicago Police Department

Posted on: January 14th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

The U.S. Department of Justice released a 161-page report this week detailing its findings following a year-long probe into the highly contentious Chicago Police Department (CPD). Federal investigators determined that the CPD has routinely violated the constitutional rights of citizens for years in numerous ways, such as using excessive force, permitting racially discriminatory conduct and shooting individuals who posed no immediate threats.

The report, which has been called “scathing”, “blistering”, and “chilling”, highlights the “systemic deficiencies” in training and accountability that investigators say have led to a pattern or practice of using force by the Department, in violation of the Constitution.

Most unsettling but not surprising, is the confirmation that the CPD disproportionally uses force against African-Americans and Latinos, rarely facing any form of consequence for their actions. DOJ statistics showed the CPD used force almost 10 times more often against African-Americans than against whites. Yet somehow, rulings against officers for this type of unconstitutional behavior remain alarmingly low.

At Romanucci & Blandin our police misconduct attorneys know first-hand how individuals, primarily African American males, have suffered at the hands of Chicago police officers – especially as it relates to the pending federal class-action stop and frisk lawsuit against the City of Chicago and the CPD – which we are leading the fight on. Whether it’s with stop and frisk, fatal police shootings or excessive force, we have seen the rights of citizens here in Chicago violated by the CPD time and time again.

While the acknowledgement of these issues today is a step in the right direction, there is still a long road ahead before the people of Chicago, especially those which we represent whose rights have been routinely violated by CPD officers, can reach a level of trust with the battered department.  It is our hope that this report is leveraged to help make real and lasting change for a brighter tomorrow in our beloved city of Chicago.

The Trouble with Convicting a Police Officer

Posted on: January 9th, 2017 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Another police officer who has been accused of shooting an unarmed black man has walked away from court without a conviction.  On December 5th, a judge declared a mistrial in the shooting case of Walter Scott, allowing former police officer Michael Slager to return home.  While he is under house arrest and still awaits a federal trial beginning next year, this mistrial is raising tensions and questions yet again.

The number of police officers charged with murder or manslaughter has been on the rise. This can most certainly be attributed to the fact that video footage of such incidents is becoming increasingly easier to obtain.  Almost everyone has a video camera on their phone and can quickly capture any event unfolding.  In fact, between 2015 and 2016 there have been 30 officers charged with murder or manslaughter due to video evidence. Compared to the 48 officers charged between 2005 and 2014, that is a significant increase.

But why, if there is video evidence of these shootings, aren’t more police officers actually convicted?  Why, of the 78 police officers charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005, have there only been 27 convictions?  And why of those 27 convictions, has only one officer been convicted of murder?

There was alarming video evidence of Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott as he ran away, yet he was not convicted of murder.  Many legal experts agree that it’s very hard to convict an officer for a few reasons.  First, juries have a hard time blaming a police officer for shooting someone because they are aware that officers put their lives on the line every day to protect the public.  Because of this, people are hesitant to convict law enforcement of murder when the police officer states they were afraid for their safety or believed there was a threat of danger.

Secondly, police officers are often judged by a different set of standards.  Juries don’t look at these cases with a sense of hindsight but rather a sense of what would a reasonable officer have done at the scene?  Again, this makes it hard for any jury to second-guess an officer’s split-second decision to shoot someone.

A change needs to be made. We need to urge people to look past the badge and analyze the situation based on the facts and evidence – plain and simple. Our attorneys at Romanucci & Blandin are prepared to do just that and ensure that victims of police misconduct are not left without justice.

Police Misconduct – The Roadblocks we must Overcome

Posted on: December 19th, 2016 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Recently, on November 16th, Jeronimo Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter after fatally shooting Philando Castile.  What made this conviction so surprising is that Yanez was a police officer and Castile was a civilian.

Police officers rarely, if ever, are successfully prosecuted for manslaughter or murder.  In fact, in 2015 the Washington Post collected data that showed 991 people were killed that year by police, yet barely any of those officers were charged with manslaughter.  Why is this the case?  What can be done to change it?


One major roadblock to prosecuting police is the fact that many states, including Illinois, have a police bill of rights.  These laws make it very hard to question, gather evidence, and formally charge any officer involved in a shooting.  The laws often call for prosecutors to prove that the officer acted with “malice” or “evil intent” and that can be very hard to argue in a court of law.

Because of this, many protesters and advocacy groups are pushing for reform through the use of tools such as body cameras.  But body cameras aren’t a cure-all.  Legal experts say that prosecuting a police officer is difficult because the majority of the public see officers as individuals who put themselves in danger to do their job, and in turn, focus on the officer’s fear of getting shot.

Body cameras make this a bigger problem because they don’t necessarily show the whole story when it comes to fatal and non-fatal interactions.  Again, the public’s perception of an officer’s fear can skew the body camera footage during prosecution.  They might see the footage one way if they believe the officer is innocent and in a totally different way if they believe he is guilty.

Legal experts believe that lasting change will come through rigorous police training as well as policy reform.  Instead of waiting for another police shooting to happen, we need to stop the incident from ever occurring.  This means training officers how to deal with people that have severe mental health problems as well as learning how to de-escalate a tense situation.  It also means other officers on the force need to hold each other accountable for their actions and report on any incidents of unethical behavior.  It won’t happen overnight, but if we are vigilant we can put an end to police shootings and misconduct.

Extensive Training & Hopefully More Accountability for Chicago’s New Civilian Office of Police Accountability

Posted on: November 18th, 2016 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

For nine years, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) was in charge of investigating excessive force complaints against the Chicago Police Department (CPD).  After years of ineffective investigating and numerous issues, IPRA is being abolished and a newly formed agency will handle the growing amount of tension and oversight between the CPD and the public.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) is the new agency and will be up and running by September 30th, 2017.  Many people have questioned how effective this new group will be considering the former IPRA chief, Sharon Fairley, is still in charge.  Fairley caused even more concern when she said that former IPRA investigators would be free to apply for new jobs within COPA, and that she would most likely hire them.

In the wake of much criticism to these statements, Fairley is now saying that all COPA investigators, new or old, would need to undergo extensive training and tests in order to get and/or keep their jobs.  Up to 171 hours of different types of training, which include interviewing techniques, complaint intake, and proper forensic and DNA analysis would be required.

These investigators will also learn as much as possible about CPD rules, regulations, and procedures so they can effectively, and swiftly, handle any investigations that come their way.  This portion of the training includes four to eight hours learning about the use of force, Taser use, vehicle pursuit, crisis intervention, body cameras, and de-escalation training.

Chicago is now at a crossroads. In theory, all of this training would be a great step forward and should help COPA employees do their job to the best of their ability. CPD officers must be held accountable by COPA, but this will only happen if all agents use their in-depth training to question any incidents and quickly act on any police misconduct claims. Greater transparency and awareness will hopefully lead to more accountability and improvements for our city.

Recommendations by Donald J. Trump to Increase the Practice of Stop and Frisk Tactics in Chicago Concerning

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has now proposed increasing the practice of stop-and-frisk tactics as a way to stop violence in our country’s black communities. His comments came during a candidates forum last week and during the Presidential debate this week, sparking criticism from many. Trump cited past experiences in New York as proof that the tactic works. What he failed to mention is that in cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles and our hometown of Chicago, the methods have been found unconstitutional for disproportionately targeting minorities. Furthermore, these tactics breed mistrust and contempt of police officers when communities and police departments should be working together. During a time where the public’s relationship with law enforcement is teetering on more troubled than ever, the perils of such an approach would be detrimental to our city’s neighborhoods.

Pending currently is a class action lawsuit filed by Romanucci & Blandin, LLC asserting that the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) widespread constitutional abuses, including inadequately monitoring CPD officers and their stop and frisk practices, have prospered as a result of, and are directly caused by, policies and practices enforced by the City of Chicago.

“This practice is being done primarily to African American individuals without reasonable suspicion required under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” noted Lead Attorney on the Stop and Frisk lawsuit, Antonio M. Romanucci. “Instead, the CPD employs race and/or national origin as determinative factors in deciding to stop and frisk individuals. This is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment – plain and simple.”

This class action lawsuit to stop the persistent practice of unconstitutional stop and frisks in Chicago follows a landmark federal class action lawsuit filed in 2008 against the City of New York and New York Police Department (NYPD) (Floyd, et al. v. City of New York). In August 2013, a federal judge found the NYPD liable for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stops and frisks.
So now you determine Mr. Trump if stop and frisk tactics can be touted as extremely successful in your hometown of New York. We say absolutely not.

A Look Inside Police Shootings In Chicago

Posted on: September 19th, 2016 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

There is absolutely no question that violence, particularly gun violence, is a major problem in Chicago.  There have been over 3,000 people shot in Chicago this year alone and 473 of those victims have died.  These numbers are higher than last year and in fact some of the highest since the 1990’s.  No doubt this is a massive issue that is shaking the city and the country.

But there is another problem that keeps being swept under the rug and ignored, and that is the number of police shootings occurring not just in Chicago but across the nation.  While there have been 92 deaths due to a police shooting in Chicago over the past six years, those numbers are eerily similar all over the United States.  

The Chicago Tribune recently gained access to data about police shootings in Chicago after a long battle to obtain the information.  Their analysis brought up some startling, and disturbing, patterns.  Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Most often the police officer involved in the shooting wasn’t a rookie officer.  The average number of years served was nine.
  • From 2010 to 2015, there were 435 police shootings and in those shootings, 2,623 bullets were fired.
  • While about half of the officers involved in these shootings were African-American or Hispanic, about four out of five victims were also African-American or Hispanic.
  • These are just a few of the highlights from the Tribune’s analysis, yet they make a strong case for the change that is desperately needed. Police officers in Chicago, and across the country, need to take on huge reforms in order to solve this problem.  It won’t happen overnight and it will take serious effort from both police officers and the community to make significant changes and end the violence on our streets.  

    Reporting these incidents will help make a difference.  If you have been a victim of police brutality or misconduct, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.