Lorenzo Davis, a former Chicago police chief who went on to be an investigator for the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), has been fired after concluding multiple civilian shootings by police were unjustified.
According to Davis, in the cases in which officers involved in shootings were exonerated, he never received any backlash. He says there were six instances where he found the shooting to be unjustified (some investigations are still ongoing, so he could not comment on specifics), and this is when his superiors had problems with the findings.
However, Davis stood by his investigations at IPRA: “[The officers] have shot people dead when they did not have to shoot,” he said. “They were not in reasonable fear for their lives. The evidence shows that the officer knew, or should have known, that the person who they shot was not armed or did not pose a threat to them or could have been apprehended by means short of deadly force.”
The IPRA was created to ensure officers were held responsible for any potentially unjust actions. Formed in 2007, it investigates complaints made against police officers, as well as officer-involved shootings. Since 2007, the IPRA has investigated close to 400 cases of police shooting civilians and has only concluded one was unjustified.
Incidentally, the IPRA replaced the Office of Professional Standards, which had faced mounting criticism because it was a part of the police department meaning police officers were the ones investigating the claims made against them. But now the IPRA is also under scrutiny because many of its employees, including several in managerial positions, are former cops.
Scott Ando, a former top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, serves as the IPRA’s chief administrator. Alongside Ando are Steven Mitchell, First Deputy Chief Administrator and former top DEA agent; and Steven Hirsch, Deputy Chief Administrator and former criminal investigation chief. David Marzullo, another former high-ranking DEA agent, and Joshua Hunt, a former homicide detective, both serve as investigative supervisors.
Davis also had a tenured police career. Prior to becoming an investigator with the IPRA, he spent over two decades in the police department until his retirement in 2004. He joined the IPRA in 2008 and became a supervisor in 2010. Throughout his IPRA career he was referred to as an “effective leader” and “excellent team player.”
But the final report deemed Davis as “clearly not [being] a team player.” IPRA officials who evaluated Davis’s job performance described him as “the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to [officer-involved shootings].” The findings concluded that Davis “displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.”
A spokesman for Ando said in a statement: “This is a personnel matter that would be inappropriate to address through the media, though the allegations are baseless and without merit. IPRA is committed to conducting fair, unbiased, objective, thorough and timely investigations of allegations of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings.”
However, according to Paula Tillman, who served as an IPRA investigative supervisor until 2012 after previously being a Chicago cop, it is not always necessarily this way. “Complaints may be seen not through the eyes of the citizen but through the eyes of a police officer,” she explained. “The investigations can be engineered so that they have a tilt toward law enforcement and not what the citizen is trying to say.” And when it came to the officer shooting investigations, Tillman said, she saw a bias towards the officers.
Ando alleged that he hired ex-cops because of their investigative and procedural police knowledge. However, whether or not this was the reason, the outcome has only further complicated the relationship between police and citizens in a time when citizens’ trust in police is diminishing all over the country. Earlier this month in Baltimore, two anonymous police officers revealed in an interview that they and other officers stopped policing the city as effectively after the Baltimore riots. Police stations in Baltimore even began closing at 7:00 PM, until one citizen shed unwanted light on the situation in an op-ed that was featured in the Baltimore Sun. In the cases of both Chicago and Baltimore it appears, to some citizens, that police are likely to cover up certain things.
Neither Davis nor Tillman are the first to allege that officers are biased in the cases of shootings involving other officers. Last month, a report concluded that police-related killings are significantly underreported to the FBI, leaving their data inaccurate. Since police departments give this information voluntarily, it is difficult to maintain accurate numbers on how often this actually happens, which only casts even more doubt over this already questionable issue.