IPRA report clears officers involved in death

February 13, 2009 5:16:33 PM PST
An Independent Police Review Authority report exonerated all of the officers investigated in a 2007 police-involved death.It's been over a year since the city has established an excessive force review to investigate police shootings and other allegations of excessive force. And this incident is the first report to be finalized.

But it still hasn't been officially released to the public.

An Independent Police Review Authority spokesman told ABC7 on Friday that if the agency had its way the public still wouldn't know the result of an investigation that apparently ended seven months ago. He said the report on a 2007 police-involved death was under a "protective order" and should not have been released.

The incident happened on August 4, 2007 at 8112 South Green Street where Chicago Police called to a domestic disturbance by the victim's family repeatedly tasered 42-year-old Gefrey Johnson. During the confrontation involving several cops inside the victim's home, Johnson's mother dialed 911 to report that her son was killed in the dining room.

ABC7 obtained a copy of the report on the 332 days-long investigation that began under the old Office of Professional Standards and was continued by the newly-formed Independent Police Review Authority. Dated July 3, 2008, it exonerated all of the officers investigated. It is the first IPRA finding that ABC7 is aware of in a fatal excessive force case.

"If you believe that in some time in July of 2008 this was complete, we should have been entitled to get it," said Mel Brooks, attorney.

Brooks who represents the Johnson family in a wrongful death lawsuit acknowledged he received a copy only two weeks ago. He said the finding gave too much weight to police witnesses who say they saw Gefrey Johnson walking to a squad car and too little credence to others who saw the victim's body carried away.

"We see statements in this report to the effect that non-police witnesses are considered non-credible," said Brooks.

Director Ilana Rosenzweig was unavailable to comment on why the IPRA did not publicly release a finding it made seven months ago.But agency spokesman Mark Payne told ABC7, "We're very close to figuring out how to release information to the public".

Police Superintendent Jody Weis wants IPRA findings released, especially when community relations and the reputations of his officers hang in the balance.

"I think it will work in the long end of actually clearing a lot of the misconceptions about officers, some of the allegations that they face wrongly," said Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis.

The paperwork ABC7 obtained indicated the department and the officers involved were informed last summer that the excessive force charges were determined to be unfounded. But attorney Brooks says the family's lawsuit will continue despite the IPRA finding which he says is flawed.

Mr. Brooks also says this new IPRA system is working no better than the now-defunct Office of Professional Standards.