Few Chicago police officers who are accused of misconduct are found to be at fault, and when they are, most of them are cited for minor infractions that carry little if any punishment, a Chicago Tribune analysis found. Nearly three-fourths of the officers found to have committed some kind of wrongdoing weren’t docked any time off or received suspensions of five days or less. Police department critics and some police accountability experts say people filing complaints against the police face obstacles and long odds in getting their allegations investigated and then substantiated.
Nearly 60 percent of all the complaints were thrown out without being fully investigated because the alleged victims failed to sign required affidavits. What’s more, investigators won’t consider an officer’s complaint history as part of the investigation, and many of the cases come down to the word of the officer versus the accuser. In the end, very few alleged victims prevail, the analysis found. Over four years ending in mid-December 2014, investigators “sustained” a little fewer than 800 of the approximately 17,700 complaints, just over 4 percent. The sustained rate rose to about 11 percent if the thousands of people who didn’t sign the affidavit are excluded from the tally. In the relatively few cases in which officers are found at fault, about 45 percent were given a reprimand or what’s called a “violation noted,” neither of which results in any docked time for the officer.