By Samah Assad, Michele Youngerman, Dave Savini
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot claimed Tuesday that Chicago Police developed a system to track wrong raids, but in reality, policy loopholes continue to leave many unaccounted for and untracked.
Lightfoot’s comments Tuesday contradict a previous interview with police officials last year, where they made it clear to CBS 2 the department hadn’t “contemplated” tracking wrong raids like the now infamous one on Anjanette Young’s home.
On Dec. 14, CBS 2 first aired the disturbing body camera video of the raid where police burst into Young’s home and handcuffed her naked.
Prior to the raid, which occurred in February 2019, officers obtained a search warrant based off a tip from a confidential informant that they failed to verify, CBS 2 found. They ultimately entered the wrong home. The man police were looking for lived next door.
Since the report aired, Lightfoot and city officials have been criticized for their handling of the case. In multiple news conferences, and again on Tuesday, Lightfoot touted changes to CPD’s search warrant policy made last January.
“I made a commitment at that point that we were going to fix the systemic problems that were leading to these cases, and that’s precisely what I focused on and what we did,” Lightfoot said.
The changes were implemented in response to CBS 2’s years-long investigation that uncovered a pattern of CPD raiding the wrong homes and traumatizing innocent families. CBS 2 reported about the new policy last January, which includes additional supervisory checks and body worn camera requirements.
Lightfoot claimed Tuesday, as part of those new policy changes, officers involved in a wrong raid are required to log a complaint register (CR) number, which would automatically initiate an internal investigation.
“If there is a wrong, so called wrong raid, it’s incumbent upon – I won’t even say incumbent, it’s mandatory – for the officers to open up a CR investigation so we learn real time what happened,” Lightfoot said.
But Lightfoot’s claim contradicts what CPD officials continue to assert in official statements and past interviews. Previously, CBS 2 reported, police never created a formal system to track these incidents internally. That’s despite years-old wrong raids unearthed by CBS 2 and lawsuits filed against the city.
After the body camera video revealed what happened during the wrong raid on Young’s home, CPD still couldn’t answer how often it happens. It’s likely the police department is unaware of the true scope of the problem.
Last year’s change to the search warrant policy requires the creation of a log if an officer enters an address different than what is listed on the search warrant. But that doesn’t account for the dozens of wrong raids CBS 2 found, including the one on Young’s home.
The policy does not require a log when officers enter the incorrect home on the search warrant after failing to do an independent investigation to verify tips from confidential informants.
A CPD spokesperson confirmed which types of raids will be logged in a statement to CBS 2 Tuesday.
“As Mayor Lightfoot mentioned at today’s press conference, the Chicago Police Department has a new policy to track search warrants conducted at incorrect addresses,” the statement said. “Under CPD’s search warrant policy revised on Jan. 3, 2020, a CPD supervisor is required to generate a log number once they have been made aware that the search warrant was executed at an address, unit or apartment different from the location listed on the search warrant.”
In an interview with Lt. Matthew Cline and CPD risk manager Michele Morris in January last year, the police department would not commit to documenting wrong raids in a formal way, raising questions about how and if officers would be held accountable if the information isn’t tracked.
“Why not?” CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini pressed Morris during the interview. “If they are wrong, why wouldn’t they be entered into the logs?”
“That would require a more thorough investigation because you need to find out what the breakdown was because it could be anything,” Morris said.
Morris also said the creation of a police database of every wrong raid “has not been contemplated but might be in the future.”
Contradicting statements by Lightfoot and CPD underscore how city officials have, for the last two years, given inaccurate or misleading information about wrong raids.
When then-police Supt. Eddie Johnson was asked at a November 2018 news conference whether CPD tracks wrong raids, Johnson claimed, “Yeah, we look at it.” When asked for exact numbers, he replied, “I don’t have it off the top of my head, but we do have that.”
CBS 2 filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the data Johnson referenced. During that process, and after more than a year of fighting CPD for the information, CBS 2 learned the police department couldn’t produce the data because police never tracked it. As a result, in November 2019, Johnson said he previously “misspoke.”
CPD does, however, document the outcome of every search warrant executed by officers. While the data does not indicate whether any are wrong raids, it’s the closest the public can get to understanding how the department uses search warrants as a policing tool.
That data revealed glaring racial disparities. CBS 2’s analysis found police disproportionately target Black and Latino neighborhoods when conducting search warrants, while rarely doing so in predominantly white neighborhoods.
In the wrong raids that CBS 2 uncovered, it’s unclear if any officers have been disciplined. In 2019 – two years after the Mendez family was wrongly raided by police – lead officer Joe Cappello was deposed as part of the family’s lawsuit. In his deposition, he admitted no one from CPD had talked to him about what happened, nor had he been issued any discipline.
The officers involved in the wrong raid on Young’s home were taken off the streets pending an ongoing investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) after CBS 2 aired the body camera footage. In November, more than a year after it opened its investigation, COPA told CBS 2 it was still in the process of interviewing the officers involved.
While Lightfoot has focused on discussing positive changes made to CPD’s search warrant policy last year, officers have already failed to follow those rules. CBS 2 uncovered two new wrong raids that happened just months after the changes were put into effect.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office did not provide a response.
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