It took years of legal battles and a ruling from the appellate court, but data detailing the number of complaints against Chicago Police Department officers has finally been released to the public. Of the tens of thousands of complaints, few ever result in disciplinary actions against the officers involved.
Compiled by journalism production company Invisible Institute, the Citizens Police Data Project is composed of three different data sets. The first two sets are complaints between 2001 and 2008, and only represent officers with more than five or 10 complaints, depending on the data set. The data for these two sets were released publicly thanks to two different legal cases, Bond v. Utreas and Moore v. City of Chicago.
The third data set represents all complaints against Chicago officers between 2011 and present day. This data was provided by the city after a FOIA request.
In total, the data combined represents 56,361 allegations against Chicago cops. Of those allegations, only 1,619 complaints ended with the officers being disciplined — that’s less than 3 percent.
The 2011 to present day data, which is slightly more reliable since it’s composed of all complaints in that timeframe, currently represents about 28,567 allegations. Of those allegations, only 496 complaints ended with the officers being disciplined — that’s less than 2 percent.
The less-complete data that spans 2001 to 2008 is composed of 27,794 allegations. Of those allegations, only 1,123 complaints ended with the officers being disciplined — that’s about 4 percent.
A Chicago Police Department spokesman, talking to the Chicago Sun-Times, said complaints against Chicago cops have dropped 50 percent since Supt. Garry McCarthy took over in 2011.
Currently, there is no way to independently verify this, since all of the data prior to 2011 isn’t publicly available.
Among the complaints, there appears to be a racial divide in the data. Though black Chicagoans filed 61% of the complaints, their sustained complaints only account for 25% of all sustained complaints. Conversely, white Chicagoans filed 21% of total complaints, and their sustained complaints account for 58% of the sustained complaints.
Though Chicago police officers with more than 10 complaints make up only about 10% of the Chicago’s police force, they received 30% of all complaints.
A number of high-complaint officers are either currently being sued and investigated for misconduct, or have been sued and investigated already. Some have even committed crimes, while others have gone to jail.
One example is ex-officer Jerome Finnigan, who faced 68 complaints — not a single one of which led to disciplinary actions — before pleading guilty to ordering a hit on a fellow police officer in 2011. He would go on to admit to committing several robberies between 2004 and 2005.
We’re still combing through the data and will hopefully have a more detailed view of the complaints, who’s receiving the most and the process that leads to disciplinary actions soon.