IPRA announces changes in bid to rebuild trust

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Changes to the civilian agency that acts as a watchdog to the Chicago Police Department were announced Monday afternoon. (WLS)

Changes to the civilian agency that acts as a watchdog to the Chicago Police Department were announced Monday afternoon.

Sharon Fairley, the acting head of the Independent Police Review Authority, detailed plans to restructure the agency that include hiring a new chief of staff and a new chief investigator in an effort to provide better oversight of investigations. Fairley acknowledged that trust in the agency can't be rebuilt overnight.

"My goal is to put plans in motion that can enhance the agency's ability to conduct quality, thorough, and timely investigations into officer-involved shootings and other complaints of misconduct, while also rebuilding Chicagoans trust in our agency and our findings," Fairley said.

Any shooting by a Chicago police officer is referred to IPRA. The agency was created in 2007 and has rarely found a police officer "unjustified" in a police shooting.

The release of dash cam video of a Chicago police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make changes at IPRA. Emanuel appointed Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, as the new chief administrator one month ago.

On Monday, Fairley said she will created new positions to include more attorneys and more individuals to do community outreach.

"I believe community outreach is a critical component to our mission and I want to ensure that there is a dedicated staff to engage in this productive dialogue that we need to have with Chicago," Fairley said.

In what Fairley said is an example of transparency, she spoke briefly about the agency's ongoing investigation into the police shooting deaths of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones.

"First, although our investigation continues in full force, I want you to know that IPRA referred this incident to the Cook County State's Attorney's office for their review, as is part of our policy and procedure," Fairley said.

Typically when a case is under investigation, IPRA does not offer any comments citing the ongoing investigation. However, Fairley discussed what details she has learned about the case so far, including timeline details about the call when it first came in. Aside from that, she would not answer any questions.

The Cook County Bar Association offered suggestions to restore trust in the African American community, including recommendations for IPRA staffers from the community.

"I think its a good thing that there's going to be change. But there have been changes before, and you get all these promises, and what happens is we continue the cycle. So I hope that's not the case this time around," said Mel Brooks, Cook County Bar Association.

Also on Monday, the family of Bettie Jones filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Chicago. Fairley said that while she will continue to investigate Jones' death, she will also be looking into past cases that IPRA has investigated.

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