Emanuel promises reform, introduces new IPRA chief

Monday, December 7, 2015
Emanuel promises reform in CPD
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised reforms to deal with the police accountability crisis as he introduced a head of the agency that investigates police misconduct.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hours after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will investigate the Chicago Police Department and the release of another dashcam video showing a fatal police shooting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised reforms to deal with the police accountability crisis.

Emanuel did what mayors before him have done: expressed outrage and promised reform. Emanuel said the police department's challenges go beyond one case and says he's making several reforms, including appointing a new leader for the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police-involved shootings.

"You have my commitment in every fiber of my body to not only work with the Justice Department in the sense of cooperative efforts, but then use all my energy to bring that level of reform and change," Emanuel said.

Emanuel fired the head of IPRA and brought in Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, to run it.

"I promise you I bring no agenda other than the pursuit of integrity and transparency in the work that IPRA does. This is what our Chicago police brethren deserve and what the City of Chicago citizens demand," Fairley said.

The mayor said he will accelerate the rollout of police body and dashboard cameras and discipline officers who don't use them appropriately. Emanuel has also been telling cops it's in their best interest to report wrongdoing in a series of meetings in recent days with officers from across the city.

"It's not something you are to fear, because if you're a good officer who does what you need to do as it relates to both the training and the practice, you need to not see this as a threat, but as an opportunity for the professionalism that you exude - a lot of you exude - every day," Emanuel said.

But the mayor's news conference hit a hurdle when reporters asked his acting police superintendent why he didn't blow the whistle on inconsistencies in officers' accounts of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.

"When the video was first seen, Supt. McCarthy at the time did the most that he was able to do and he immediately stripped Officer Van Dyke and had him assigned to administrative duties," Supt. John Escalante said.

On Wednesday, Emanuel will deliver an address to the entire Chicago City Council as he continues the process of convincing aldermen and the public that his reforms go far enough.

Will new IPRA chief bring change?


IPRA was born after another police scandal seven years ago that cost another superintendent his job. Transparency and trust were big words then, and they are again today.

The old boss is out, a new one is in, and the fair question is: what, if anything will change?

Police-involved shootings, use of deadly force, alleged misconduct. IPRA's mission is to independently investigate. "Thorough, fair, and timely investigations" are words in IPRA's mission statement. Its critics say the agency is understaffed, moves in slow motion, and has a pro-police bias.

"I promise you I bring no agenda other than the pursuit of integrity and transparency in the work that IPRA does," said Sharon Fairley, IPRA Chief Administrator Designate.

Fairley is the new boss, subject to council approval. She's a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, most recently, the chief deputy in the city Inspector General's office.

She takes over an agency that in its seven years of existence has investigated 409 police-involved shootings, but has found in only two of them that allegations against police officers were "credible."

"It's absurd. You don't have to be an expert, you don't need to be a police officer, you don't need to be a state's attorney to look at those statistics and say, 'come on,'" said Torri Hamilton, a civil rights attorney.

Hamilton is a civil rights attorney who formerly, as a city lawyer, defended police officers. IPRA, she contends, is beyond badly broken and has purposely altered some of its finding to favor police.

In her brief remarks Monday, Fairley echoed the words in the mission statement: "thorough, fair, timely investigations."

"All of that is critical to restoring the trust that is essential to providing a level of public safety that all our communities deserve," Fairley said.

"She has a chance to succeed if she's given support - both financially within the organization, with other investigators to do what we're asking IPRA to do," Hamilton said.

ABC7 asked for an opportunity to question Ms. Fairley in more detail about her intentions. Specifically, will she ask for more investigators, since IPRA has long complained that it doesn't have the people it needs to adequately do the job.

A mayoral spokesperson said our request would have to wait since Ms. Fairley just accepted the job over the weekend.

Fairley did say on Monday that the city is at a crossroads, and that change is in the air.