More than 100 current and former Chicago Police Department officials were allowed to stay on the job after making false statements, despite a rule that says dismissal is the “appropriate disciplinary penalty,” City Hall’s inspector general reported Thursday.
When former Mayor Lori Lightfoot was on the Chicago Police Board, she called the department’s Rule 14 the “you lie, you die” rule.
But the inspector general’s office found that the regulation isn’t being consistently enforced, undermining the department’s integrity.
“By employing members with histories of Rule 14 violations, CPD risks undermining its core law enforcement function by potentially compromising otherwise successful criminal convictions, eroding public trust and violating its constitutional and legal obligations,” the office said in a report. “Given the importance of truthfulness and credibility in police work, CPD, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the police board should make changes to ensure Rule 14 violations are consistently considered, disciplined and accurately recorded.”
As of November, the police department employed or had recently employed at least 110 people who violated the rule, including five who had been the subject of two disciplinary investigations that found they had made false written or oral statements.
Some were assigned to specialized units, like an FBI task force. Others worked as detectives and were promoted even after being found to have lied or made a material omission, according to the report.
The inspector general’s office called for stricter enforcement of the rule, criticizing “structural failures” in the city’s police accountability system and gaps in policies and practices that “contribute to underenforcement of Rule 14.”
The office recommended that COPA and the police internal affairs bureau should routinely recommend firing for such violations, that the police department should “consistently separate” members who have violated the rule and that the police board should uphold any firings.
The police department also should ensure that any employees who have broken the rule aren’t allowed to write reports or testify in court, the inspector general’s office said, adding that prosecutors should promptly be informed of any new violations.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office keeps lists of officers who are barred from testifying in court because they’ve committed misconduct that calls into question their credibility, including having made false statements.
Earlier this week, the Triibe reported that 200 current and former Chicago cops are on those lists.
But the police department’s general counsel told the inspector general that the department doesn’t keep track of the records that are handed over in response to prosecutors’ requests for employees’ disciplinary records.
That means the police department can’t “confirm or verify that the department has met its obligations to inform [prosecutors] or any other requestor about a member’s Rule 14 history,” the inspector general’s office said.
The report highlighted two cases in which department members testified after violating the rule.
One had lied about making derogatory remarks to a member of the public and yet was the prosecution’s sole witness in a drug case. An appellate court later found that arrest reports and preliminary hearing testimony “used to rehabilitate the member’s credibility were inadmissible,” reversing the conviction and the defendant’s seven-year sentence and ordering a new trial.
Another department member was found to have made false statements twice, lying about being at a district station while actually off-duty and filing a false criminal report saying the employee’s signature was forged on a defaulted car lease. The employee was later called to testify in at least two criminal cases, both ending with convictions.
It’s unclear whether the department members’ Rule 14 violations were disclosed, the inspector general’s office said.
A police spokesperson said the department has “taken the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations under consideration and have already made progress to complete and implement several of the recommendations.”
Internal affairs investigators will continue to recommend dismissal to the police superintendent in cases involving Rule 14 violations, according to responses to the inspector general’s recommendations included in the report.
But the department rebuffed a call to “consistently separate members” who broke the rule because police officials don’t consider processes beyond their control, like a grievance procedure bound by collective bargaining agreements and police board proceedings.
The department agreed to maintain records of all members who have violated Rule 14 and to implement a “periodic review” to assess whether they’re assigned to positions that require them to write reports or testify in court. Also, police officials committed to implementing “an ongoing notification system” to alert prosecutors of violations and to train investigators on recognizing them.
Other agencies targeted in the report criticized some of the findings and disagreed with the inspector general’s recommendations.
In a letter attached to the report, Chicago Police Board officials noted that 21 of the 23 department members who have been found guilty of violating Rule 14 since 2018 have faced dismissal. They said the board can’t commit to uphold recommendations to fire officers because it’s required to “base its decisions on the evidence and legal authority made part of the record at the hearing on the charges.”
Andrea Kersten, COPA’s chief administrator, wrote in response to the findings that the oversight body “generally agrees” with the recommendation to recommend firing for police officials who violated Rule 14 but said COPA’s actions are bound by union contracts and “must necessarily consider whether there is sufficient cause to discharge an officer in each case.”
In response to recommendations to instruct investigators to look for Rule 14 violations and establish a mechanism to confirm whether potential violations are being assessed, Kersten said such steps already have been taken.
“COPA is firm in its stance that officers found to have willfully lied in an official report or statement must be held accountable,” Kersten said in a written statement. “These actions not only negatively impact the department’s reform efforts but can also undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.”