Time for COPA to End the Chicago Police Sexual Misconduct Charade
Some are afraid to lie, others are afraid to admit the truth
By the time Andrea Kersten stepped away from the podium at a July 18 press briefing at the West Town office of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), her appearance raised more questions than provided answers.
The Chief Administrator of the agency responsible with civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), Kersten’s press conference to update media on developments in COPA’s investigation of allegations police officers in CPD’s 10th District had engaged in sexual misconduct with illegal migrants sheltering in the station revealed precious few facts. Though Kersten’s press briefing was held less than two weeks after the allegations rampaged across the headlines, COPA investigators, Kersten confessed, had not identified a victim.
For those who are unfamiliar with COPA’s latest fool’s errand, here is what we know. On July 6, COPA received a complaint alleging an officer serving at CPD’s 10th District had engaged in an improper sexual relationship with an underage migrant sheltering at the Ogden station. A most serious charge, the claim against the officer contended a illegal minor had been impregnated as a result of the improper contact. It was also alleged multiple officers — at least four — had engaged in sexual acts with illegals in Ogden.
A story which spread at the speed of light, when the allegations of CPD misconduct were aired in public, it inspired predictable results: Chicago media lost its collective mind, the anti-police movement mobilized and deluged CPD with searing rebukes, and community groups staged protests outside the 10th District building. In this universe of effete liberal opinion, the presumption of innocence is never granted, and officers are always presumed guilty. To the collective of over-caffeinated community organizers, the accused officers were guilty not because the charges were buttressed with evidence whatsoever, but rather because of their physical, familial, and genetic features. All five men were white, male, and served with CPD.
Chicago’s rock-star mayor, Brandon Johnson, issued a terse statement, declaring he was “deeply troubled” with the accusations. Johnson’s press release followed with a reassurance his office would arrange the illegal migrants sheltered in the 10th District to be moved and mental health services would be made available.
Following Chicago media’s completely foreseen and utterly embarrassing overreaction, for the next 11 days, the Windy City exploded with wild and unsubstantiated rumors of police malfeasance and the charge rape or sexual abuse of illegals prevailed at CPD District buildings. Yet for all the shrieks of horror, rage, and hysteria sown by the allegations of officer misconduct, and despite two simultaneous investigations carried out to get to the bottom of the allegations, in the 11-day period between the charges emerging and Ms. Kersten’s press conference, not one officer said to have engaged in sexual misconduct with an illegal had police powers removed.
An odd development, with pressure mounting, and with overheated activists both hyperventilating and baying for police blood, Kersten relented and held a press conference on July 18 to brief media on the pace of COPA’s inquiry. Visibly uncomfortable, Kersten took to the lectern and revealed what fair-minded people had concluded long ago: COPA’s sleuths had neither uncovered any evidence of a crime nor had it located a victim of any crime.
While an investigation of this magnitude, when done correctly, requires time and composure, 11 days was more than sufficient time to arrange and manage an official inquiry to assemble evidence to support the allegations. The absence of any corroborating evidence in this matter should have prompted Ms. Kersten to wrap up the probe immediately. By her own admission, Kersten confirmed no illegal had been identified as a victim of any sexual assault and no evidence supported the charge any officer had engaged in any form of sexual misconduct.
While it is tempting to believe Ms. Kersten was engaged in an effort to discover the truth and expose any wrongdoing in COPA’s probe, it is also likely COPA’s chief was less than forthcoming in her statements to media on July 18. Though Kersten’s statements apropos to COPA investigators finding no evidence to support the charges against police were plausible — after all, no victim was located — her public assertion the source of the complaint which provoked the investigation is unknown to COPA was almost certainly false.
According to sources inside the Chicago Police Department’s 10th District, three officers assigned to the station met with COPA investigators between July 7-17. Of the three, one officer met informally with COPA investigators; two other officers were summoned to COPA’s offices where they sat for official interviews with COPA. In two separate interviews COPA officials held with officers, investigators conducting the questioning acknowledged to the officers undergoing interviews COPA was fully aware of the source of the complaint which provoked the probe.
Sources in CPD’s 10th District have also confirmed the nature of the complaint is found in an acrimonious divorce proceeding and the officer at the center of the claim has not been summoned to speak with COPA.
A travesty of justice has occurred
Let’s specify upfront the allegations lodged against officers were grave and a full investigation of the matter was entirely necessary and justified. Nevertheless, from the very beginning the charges leveled against officers were flimsy and far-fetched, evidence was unreliable, and since July 18, COPA has adopted and maintained a stance of studied and consistent silence. The basis for COPA’s silence is fairly obvious: COPA swiftly realized the allegations were utter claptrap and rather than issuing a statement absolving all officers involved, COPA prefers to have the matter simply fade from our collective memory.
Though born of COPA’s desire to avoid the public humiliation of having to concede officers were not found to be involved in wrongdoing, the fiction of sexual misconduct among officers will lamentably linger in the minds of committed opponents of police. A useful tool, Chicago can expect law enforcement critics to resurrect the allegation when it serves their interests to defame Chicago police. Though the allegations here are patently absurd, it is a classic example of how the facts of a case can be drown amid a desire by elected officials, bureaucrats, and community activists to exploit a situation for the purpose of spreading calumnies against the police.
Part of a pattern in Chicago, if we go back slightly in time, the shooting death of an armed gang member, Adam Toledo, serves as the latest example of this destructive cycle. Though Toledo was armed, fled police, and willfully defied countless lawful police commands to end his flight and surrender, his shooting death galvanized Chicago’s anti-police posse, media, and lawmakers. Despite thorough investigations ultimately proving officers who responded to the scene acted appropriately under state law, CPD procedure and training, city ordinance, and Consent Decree directives, a relentless condemnation of police came from all directions, often branding officers as interminably corrupt, or worse, as armed racists and homicidal maniacs.
For all the sound and fury the charges officers serving in the 10th District had engaged in sexual misconduct generated, the facts of this incident will never be publicly conceded by COPA, City Hall, any elected official or media. Though COPA is keen on advertising its commitment to conducting fair and methodical investigations, with the facts COPA does possess and no evidence to support the charges of sexual misconduct, by deferring a judgment and concluding the probe by vindicating the accused officers, COPA is doing a terrible disservice to CPD and the wrongly accused officers.
Similarly, COPA is an outgrowth of hysterical calls for police accountability and rote declarations for the need to repair the “broken trust with police.” For COPA to delay concluding the probe in the attempt to avoid a humiliating come down comes at a cost: The agency is squandering a rare public opportunity to strengthen the bonds of affection between police and the public and deliver justice to the wrongly accused. Should COPA stubbornly resist ending the investigation, at the very minimum, the agency should commit itself to locating the source of the leak to media which stirred a citywide frenzy.
In addition to putting a stop to the disclosure of sensitive information to media figures, COPA should also expand its inquiry to determining the validity of the complaint which laid the foundation of the investigation. An obligation of COPA, for the oversight agency to disregard this essential aspect of its investigation would only incentivize the tendering of unfounded complaints against officers.
COPA is at a crossroad. Regardless of how uncomfortable the truths uncovered, COPA has a legal obligation to see officers accused of a crime are accorded procedural justice. If Ms. Kersten retreats from this divine responsibility, it will forever cast doubt on her judgment and the probity of the entire investigation. Should COPA attempt to run out the clock on the charges of sexual misconduct and deny public absolution to officers in the 10th District, it will only reveal it is simultaneously an agency of dubious impartiality and just another political weapon in a never-ending war on the Chicago Police Department.