Due to a court order, police records have recently been released to the public which shows over 134,000 complaints filed against Chicago cops over a 34-year period. Police records in Chicago are notoriously hard to get, and releasing these complaint records is a step in the right direction towards easing the amount of tension between the public and the police force. But there are a startling amount of complaints and not much has been done to correct police officers once a complaint has been filed.
The records were released in two formats, one a spreadsheet and the other a large PDF file. Only the spreadsheet could be analyzed, and this showed complaints from 1967 to 2001. During this 34-year time period, less than 1% of complaints led to an officer being fired or separated from the force. 13% received a reprimand or a suspension and a staggering 87% had no action taken.
Even more startling than the lack of action, was the amount of complaints certain police officers accrued. There were at least two officers who had 100 complaints each and three more, Jerome Finnigan, Broderick Jones, and Corey Flagg had more than 65 complaints each. Each of these three cops was never given more than a suspension while on the force, but all of them were eventually convicted of crimes and sent to prison.
Police chiefs weren’t exempt from complaints either, and all of them had at least one complaint. Former Superintendent LeRoy Martin and current Superintendent Eddie Johnson had nine and eight complaints respectively.
A few more bewildering statistics from the report:
- The most common “punishment” was a reprimand which happened for about 4,100 complaints or 3% of the time.
- The most common reason for getting fired was testing positive for drugs – an action often times completely unrelated to any complaint. This happened 49 times.
- It wasn’t until 2006 that the department started to send commanders lists of cops that had ten or more complaints filed against them.
- The majority of the complaints were filed in the ‘90’s (112,839 complaints).
- 1,184 complaints were filed in the early 2000’s.
Clearly, more action needs to be taken once a complaint is filed against an officer. Transparency is a good first step for Chicago to take towards repairing the strained relationship between the police force and the public. Now, cops need to be held accountable for their actions, and stricter punishment needs to be enforced so these problems don’t continue.