Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chicago’s IPRA: Indiscriminate Police Rampage Authorization?

Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority is a piece of the process that justifies & propagates the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black & Latino people, assisting in the cover-up of egregious crimes by Chicago police.

The Independent Police Review Authority is known by the acronym IPRA. Don't the facts suggest that IPRA really stands for:


You decide ...

IPRA by the numbers*
  • Police shootings – 2007 to September 2009: 138, fatalities – 44
    (there were at least 7 more police involved shootings in 2009 after September, including at least 3 fatalities)
  • IPRA Police shooting investigations completed: 11, on fatalities? -- 2
    (Year of shootings investigated: 1 from 2006, 7 from 2007, 3 from 2008)
  • IPRA findings of fault in police shootings: 1
    (“officer inattentive to duty” because he fired his gun accidentally. He argued he had shot the person intentionally but IPRA didn’t believe him.)
  • IPRA Investigations of general police misconduct closed – Sept 2007 to Sept 2009: 4,774
  • IPRA findings of Police misconduct from closed investigations: 88
    (only 32 of which were citizen complaints, the rest being police complaints against police, domestic violence complaints against Police, and procedural complaints)
One thing is certain – if you are a cop, IPRA’s got your back!!

*Information from IPRA’s website and IPRA’s published reports as of Jan 2010; updated totals incorporating 2010 and 2011 data currently being prepared.

A look at the human side
The numbers above give the cold statistics. But statistics can’t begin to convey how cold IPRA really is. Imagine the pain of the families of people killed by the police when IPRA won’t even tell them the name of the cop or cops who did the killing!!

CASE STUDY: Corey Harris
Corey Harris, 17 years old, was a basketball star at Dyett High School. Interviewed on television, his varsity basketball coach said, “He had natural leadership abilities and we had high accolades for the kid. We thought he was going to be a tremendous asset for us, not only on the team but in the school as a whole.” In September of 2009 Corey Harris was shot and killed by an off duty cop. According to witnesses at the scene, this cop had initially fired indiscriminately into a crowd of youth fleeing from a shot fired in a fight. The cop then chased Corey, who – by the police’s own admission was unarmed – down an alley and shot him in the back. Four months later IPRA hasn’t even taken the officer’s testimony or released his name.

CASE STUDY: Aaron Harrison
In August of 2007 Aaron Harrison was shot in the back and murdered by a cop on Chicago’s west side. That shooting came less than a week after police had beaten Lester “Roni” Spruil to death in the same area and sparked a small uprising in the neighborhood. Shortly afterward, with much fanfare, the creation of IPRA was announced. Aaron’s case would be its first high profile investigation.

March 6, 2009 IPRA released its report. After interviewing numerous witnesses who testified that Aaron had no gun IPRA focused on the testimony of a single alleged witness who, when stopped by police for a narcotics investigation, told them he had information that could help them in the shooting case around Aaron. He claimed to have seen Aaron with a gun earlier on the day he was shot. He is alleged to have described how he had brought this information to a local preacher who told him to keep quiet about what he knew.

IPRA never interviewed the preacher to corroborate the story. In fact IPRA never even interviewed the witness. Instead they relied on reports of interviews by police detectives and reports from the discredited Office of Professional Standards describing the existence of this witness and his testimony. When speaking, under oath in the wrongful death suit brought by Aaron’s mother the “local preacher” testified that he had never met such a person. And IPRA had never asked him.

In addition to this mysterious witness who cannot be found, IPRA’s report on the shooting of Aaron describes a DNA report on matter found on a gun that was “recovered at the scene.“ Though Aaron’s finger prints are nowhere to be found on the gun (and remember, Aaron was murdered in August so it isn’t like he was wearing gloves) the DNA report “doesn’t rule out” Aaron. In further analysis, presented in the wrongful death trial IPRA’s DNA results are refuted.

The IPRA investigation of the Police murder of Aaron Harrison exonerated the police using two pieces of evidence to trump the testimony of numerous witnesses and other physical evidence. The two pieces were the questionable testimony of a witness who may not even exist and ambiguous (and later discredited) DNA analysis.

CASE STUDY: Oscar Guzman
In April of 2009 Oscar Guzman, a 16 year old with autism, was standing outside his families restaurant on 26th street when police, thinking he “fit the description” of a suspect stopped to question him. Unable to answer their questions he fled into the restaurant where the police caught him and, despite the families entreaties, beat him over the head with metal batons. In December, 8 months later, IPRA responded to a lawsuit Oscar’s family was filing with a written statement announcing it would “not sacrifice the thoroughness of an investigation to meet a timeline.”

With IPRA things have gone from Bad to Worse
Since IPRA replaced the old Office of Professional Standards (OPS) the previous policy of removing police involved in shooting incidents from the streets while the investigation is pending has been eliminated. Now police are back, leering and threatening the community, the day after they kill. But which of them even did the shooting? There’s no way to know unless one witnessed them at the scene and read their name tag. Because IPRA keeps that information deeply hidden, along with everything else, objectively hampering any effort to get some measure of justice for the victim. Lawyers for families seeking redress for the wrongful death of their loved ones describe how very, very difficult it is to get crucial information out of IPRA – even with a subpoena!! And two years after the fact IPRA is still stonewalling on many investigations.
  • Freddy Latrice Wilson, a rapper know as “the Saint” was gunned down by police outside the studio where he recorded – shot 18 times – on September 28, 2007. IRPA is still investigating.
  • Johnny Goodwin, 21 years old, was waiting at the bus stop for his mother to escort her home late in the evening of August 22nd, 2007. Undercover cops jumped out of a car, chased him down and shot him to death. No IPRA finding has been released on the case.
  • Meliton Recendez, 15 years old, was shot to death by police September 28, 2007. There is no report on that at IPRA’s website.
  • Johnathan Pinkerton, 16, was shot in the back by police on June 11, 2007 and paralyzed from the waist down. His mother has heard nothing from IPRA for more than two years. IPRA has issued no finding.

These are only 4 out of 127 shootings IPRA is still sitting on. Truly IPRA has the Police’s back!!

A system where police not only regularly beat, brutalize and kill people, but which invents “Independent” authorities to defend those very actions has long outlived its historical usefulness!