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.