HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States

Police Administration/
Internal Affairs Division

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Because of the role assigned OPS, the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) does not play a large role in excessive force cases. The division is responsible for keeping track of complaints against officers, yet efforts to utilize a computerized tracking system that would identify "problem" officers who are the subjects of repeated complaints have been derailed. According to a police abuse expert in the city,approximately 200 to 300 officers (or 2 percent), out of a department of more than 13,000, are the subjects of 20 to 25 percent of brutality complaints.95

In July 1994, Police Superintendent Rodriguez announced the use of a computer system, called BrainMaker, that would identify officers whose records indicated that they required additional oversight, training, or counseling, with the goal of keeping problem-prone officers from becoming worse.96 Attorneys representing alleged police abuse victims in civil cases claimed that an IAD sergeant deleted the lists of "problem" officers generated by BrainMaker once attorneys began requesting the lists.97 The head of IAD disclosed in a deposition that the BrainMaker system was used, and that reports were generated every three months from the beginning of 1995 through mid-1996; it was not clear what, if anything, was done to deal with officers identified in those reports - or what became of the reports themselves, which are now missing.98 As of late 1997, police officials stated that they were considering utilizing BrainMaker again, but only in close cooperation with the police union; police abuse experts expressed doubt that the system would ever be used as initially intended. When questioned about BrainMaker, the police department's general counsel stated that there has been an early warning system - a behavioral alerts system - in place since 1983.99 He stated that BrainMaker was not intended to supplant the system that already existed, but acknowledged that the department was unable to implement BrainMaker.100

The Commission on Police Integrity report urged the enhancement of the behavioral alerts program to identify at risk officers more consistently.101 As proofof the need for an improved early warning system, the report noted that the seven indicted officers from the Austin District were the subject of ninety-three complaints, with only two sustained.102 In the Gresham District, three indicted officers were the subject of forty complaints, and only three were sustained. The Commission urged the behavioral alerts program to include non-sustained complaints, since they are neither proven nor disproved. The Commission also urged the department to examine units that have a higher than usual rate of allegations of misconduct, since the report contended that corrupt officers tend to bond together. The report also recommended that the behavioral alerts system include not just complaints, but also other data indicative of potential misconduct, including civil liability judgments.103

Police personnel are not always willing to receive complaints and pass them to OPS. One police sergeant interviewed by Human Rights Watch stated that he talks to complainants to determine whether the complaint is good. He contended that many complaints are made by people who are arrested who just want to cause trouble for the officer. He also said that the department does not like one-on-one complaints. He stated that most firings of police officers are related to drug charges or corruption, and rarely to the use of excessive force.104

95 Taylor, statement before the Congressional Black Caucus, September 12, 1997.

96 Tom Seibel, "Computer profiles to help sniff out crooked cops," Chicago Sun-Times, July 4, 1994; Steve Mills, "High-tech tool to weed out bad cops proved a bust," Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1997.

97 Telephone interview with attorney G. Flint Taylor of the People's Law Office, October 23, 1997

98 Ibid.

99 Telephone interview, Don Zoufal, general counsel, CPD, January 22, 1998.

100 Ibid.

101 Office of International Criminal Justice, University of Illinois, Chicago, Report of the Commission on Police Integrity, November 1997.

102 Ibid.

103 Ibid.

104 During ride-along with Sgt. Lynn Garmon, August 25, 1995, in 7th District/Englewood section.

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© June 1998
Human Rights Watch