It is a system seemingly designed to fail, reports the Chicago Tribune. The city’s police officers enforce a code of silence to protect one another when they shoot a citizen, giving some a sense they can do so with impunity. Their union protects them from rigorous scrutiny, enforcing a contract that can be an impediment to tough and timely investigations. The Independent Police Review Authority, the civilian agency meant to pierce that protection and investigate shootings of citizens by officers, is slow, overworked and, according to its many critics, biased in favor of the police. Prosecutors almost never bring charges against officers in police shooting cases, seeming to show a lack of enthusiasm for arresting the people they depend on to make cases, even when video, an officer’s history or other circumstances raise concerns.
The city of Chicago, which oversees that system, has a keen interest in minimizing potential scandal; indeed, it has paid victims and their families millions of dollars to prevent information from becoming public when it fears the shooting details will roil neighborhoods and cause controversy for the mayor. It’s common knowledge that Chicago’s system of investigating shootings by officers is flawed. The Tribune’s examination of the system shows that it is flawed at so many levels (critics say by design) as to be broken. Of 409 shootings since independent review authority was formed in 2007, an average of roughly one a week, only two have led to allegations against an officer being found credible. Both involved off-duty officers. Joseph Roddy, a police union lawyer for a quarter-century, said the data suggest a deep problem. “It’s hard to believe,” he said. “Michael Jordan couldn’t make 407 out of 409 shots — even from the free-throw line.”