A new report from Chicago’s inspector general accuses the Chicago Police Department and other agencies charged with investigating officer discipline for failing to adequately punish officers caught lying or making false statements.
The report, released Thursday by Chicago Office of Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, found that CPD, along with the Bureau of Internal Affairs, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Board, have failed to consistently fire to officers or civilians on the force. who have been caught making false statements or reports.
Witzburg said these agencies have fallen short.
“The agencies that make up the Chicago police accountability system do not ensure that CPD members with sustained Rule 14 violations are removed from the Department, despite statements of intent to the contrary,” the report states.
CPD Rule 14 specifically prohibits officers from “making a false report, written or oral.”
The OIG report found that as recently as November, CPD “employs or has recently employed” at least 110 members of the Chicago Police Department who had made false statements or reports.
The Witzburg office cited examples where in 2019 the then deputy director of the Office of Internal Affairs made a public statement that “since about 2008, if a person has a sustained violation of Rule 14, we recommend separation.”
But the OIG report cited three examples in 2012, 2017 and 2019 in which the BIA recommended disciplinary action that stopped short of termination.
The inconsistencies, the OIG report noted, “raise serious concerns about the rigor, fairness, and consistency with which Rule 14 is applied.”
“The appropriate punishment for violating that rule is dismissal. He is being fired from the police department,” Witzburg told NBC 5 Investigates on Thursday. “We cannot ask people to trust a police department that allows its members to get away with lying,” Witzburg added.
Officers who make false statements can also have a direct impact on court cases by being placed on so-called Brady Lists when prosecutors recommend against using them as witnesses because their credibility has been questioned.
NBC 5 Investigates has obtained thousands of pages of memos from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office telling prosecutors not to call hundreds of officers as witnesses after judges questioned their credibility.
One example from a 2016 memo involved a Cook County Circuit Court judge saying that a Chicago police officer: “…had a reckless disregard for the truth… [had] zero credibility with the court, and referred to the officer as an outright liar.”
In another memo, a judge called court testimony from a Chicago police officer “demonstrably false,” adding: “I don’t think I can find the rest of his testimony reliable or credible.”
Another memo says another judge said an officer’s testimony was “full pretext.” According to the court transcript in that case, the judge expressed frustration at “…the testimony of these officers who search and lie.”
All three officers on those memos are still on the force, according to the city’s online employee database.
Witzburg said CPD and the other agencies have “talked the talk” about firing officers caught making false statements, but have not “followed the path” when it came to actual discipline.
The OIG report also makes a number of recommendations, including calling on CPD to more consistently fire officers or civilians caught making false statements.
In its response to the agency, CPD said it “disagrees with this recommendation as it does not take into account actions outside of the department’s control.”
Members of the Chicago Police Department can file a complaint when facing disciplinary issues and challenge their potential punishment, the department noted.
Conciliation agreements may also affect the results of disciplinary matters.
In an emailed statement to NBC 5 Investigates, CPD wrote: “Members of the Chicago Police Department are held to the highest standards. Our sworn and civilian members are expected to act with integrity as we work to build and maintain credibility and trust among the communities we serve. We have taken into consideration the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General and have already made progress in completing and implementing several of the recommendations.” COPA sent a statement that read in part: “COPA is firm in its position that officials who have deliberately lied in an official report or statement must be held to account. These actions not only have a negative impact on the Department’s reform efforts, but can also undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.”