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Government and People
|Thank you for the opportunity to appear before
you today. With me is Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer. As a former chief legal
counsel for the Chicago Police Department and a special prosecutor of police misconduct
cases, Assistant Chief Gainer is extremely knowledgeable in this area. He understands and
shares my vision for the future, and he will be spearheading the Department's initiatives,
which I will outline today, for making immediate and significant improvements in our
complaint and disciplinary process.
Assistant Chief Gainer and I appreciate your interest in this matter. Like you, we recognize that for the MPD to be effective, we must establish a strong and lasting partnership with the community a partnership that is built on integrity, trust and mutual respect. I am committed to these ideals. And I am committed to putting in place the policies, procedures and systems that will help ensure these ideals are met every day of the year by every member of our Department.
In recent weeks, the MPD has worked closely with Special Counsel Touhey and his staff to make sure they had complete access to our files. We held open and frank discussions about current Department policies and procedures, as well as particular cases. And we helped to facilitate personal meetings with many current and former members of the MPD.
Much of this effort has involved analyzing the past and present practices of this Department. You will undoubtedly hear more on these past practices from the various panels which are appearing before this body today. From my own review of the past, it is clear that over the years, the handling of some disciplinary cases has been substandard, if not negligent. The recording, investigation and resolution of known allegations have been lax at times. The imposition of punishment has not always been equitable, mostly because of a fundamental lack of effective internal controls and procedures. In some instances, the rights of Department personnel have not been adequately protected. And the expectations of those we serve the community have not been met.
Like you, I know there is unique value in exploring the history of the MPDs performance in these cases in dissecting rules and procedures, and in closely scrutinizing specific lapses in judgment and accountability. I welcome such scrutiny, and I intend to learn from it and act upon it. But while I appreciate the history behind this issue, my focus is decidedly on the future on making real and meaningful improvements to a system in need of repair. My goal is to create a complaint and disciplinary system that is timely, credible and which can stand the scrutiny of others, including independent auditors. My vision is for a system that investigates all complaints against MPD members fairly, swiftly and accurately, and a system that provides for the just and timely resolution of all cases. The members of my Department, and the members of the communities they serve, deserve nothing less.
As we explore this whole issue of complaint and disciplinary procedures, let's not forget something very important: the vast, vast majority of the members of the MPD are honest, ethical, dedicated, hard-working public servants. This becomes clear when you juxtapose the relatively small number of complaints registered against our employees each year with the literally millions of contacts they have with the public in responding to calls for service, making arrests, investigating traffic crashes, issuing citations and attending community meetings. The men and women of the MPD perform professionally and heroically thousands upon thousands of times every year flawlessly and precisely when the community needs them.
But that is not to say that we cannot or must not do better. I will be the first person to acknowledge that we must do better. As chief, I have the unique responsibility and authority to maintain discipline and good conduct within the Metropolitan Police Department. I take that responsibility very seriously.
That is why my vision for our complaint and disciplinary review process will be guided by certain key policies and principles:
While the implementation of a new and effective complaint and disciplinary system will take some time, there are some important steps that I am taking immediately.
The work of this committee will focus on many critical issues: the integrity of complaint initiation; the investigative process, including the timeliness of investigations; internal disciplinary procedures; referrals for criminal action; rights of the accused; notification of complainants; and the appeals process. I am also directing the committee to establish a reporting procedure in which quarterly activity reports are submitted to the Chief Management Officer, the City Council and the Congressional oversight committees. These reports will document the Department's actions while protecting the confidentiality of individuals as provided by the Constitution and bargaining agreements.
Assistant Chief Gainer and his committee are also instructed to develop plans for the structure, composition and personnel assignments of the Office of Professional Responsibility, including the need for a Confidential and Corrupt Practices section. He will advise me on the appropriateness of relocating internal affairs from 300 Indiana Avenue in order to enhance undercover operations and ensure the confidentiality of interviews.
Finally, I am asking this committee to look at the issue of preventing misconduct through early identification and intervention with employees who are experiencing problems. We all need to remember that police work is done in an extremely dangerous and stressful environment, and it is these dangers and stresses that often contribute to misconduct. I am asking the committee for recommendations on a Personnel Concerns program that will train supervisors to identify members who are exhibiting unusual or uncharacteristic behavior, and then provide those members with counseling and other assistance. We owe it to our employees to help them deal with personal problems on the front end, so that we can avoid having to punish misconduct on the back end.
Best practices in the areas of complaint and disciplinary processes and employee assistance exist across the country. We will work with members of our Department in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney, the Corporation Counsel, the FOP, elected officials the community to research these best practices and apply them to our Department. I am confident that we can create a fair, credible and effective process one that employs progressive discipline, tolerates and corrects inadvertent errors, and treats minor infractions reasonably. At the same time, we will conscientiously and impartially enforce the law, and move forcefully for more severe penalties up to and including separation and criminal sanctions when that is warranted.
I know you will be analyzing a lot of statistics today, so I want to offer a caveat about what the numbers may look like in the future. Establishing the systems and controls that I outlined today may have the effect of actually increasing the number of complaints investigated in the short- term. As people gain more confidence in our complaint and disciplinary system, and as the process become more accessible and efficient, we very well may see the numbers rise. My concern is not so much with the short-term fluctuations in statistics. Rather, my commitment is to provide the people of this city, and the members of my department, with an honest, ethical police force that we can be proud of and that can work effectively to reduce crime.
I want to close today with a message to the women and men of the Metropolitan Police Department. To that vast, vast majority of members I spoke of, whose conduct is above reproach ... I say, thank you. Your honesty and integrity seldom get recognition publicly, but they are deeply appreciated by me and by the community. And to those few who would tarnish our badge and betray our oath ... I say, do so at your peril.
*Through June 4, 1998
ADVERSE ACTIONS 1995 THRU 1998
ADVERSE ACTION HEARINGS
*Panel findings pending.
TYPES OF DISCIPLINE
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