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.