General FAQs

About COPA

The main office is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

No. COPA is not a part of the CPD. COPA is a completely independent agency within the City of Chicago responsible for the intake of all complaints regarding allegations of misconduct by CPD members and the investigation of such allegations. COPA is staffed by civilian investigators and headed by a civilian Chief Administrator who is appointed to a four-year term.

No. COPA and the CPB are two separate City of Chicago agencies. The CPB is an independent civilian body that reviews and decides disciplinary matters brought before it by COPA and the Superintendent of CPD. The nine members of the CPB are private citizens appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the City Council. For more information please visit www.ChicagoPoliceBoard.org

On October 5, 2016, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance to establish COPA. On September 15, 2017, COPA officially opened.

COPA publishes a quarterly report on April 15, July 15 and October 15 each year, and an annual report on February 15 of each year, that includes data on the number of complaints filed with, investigations pending before, and cases closed with the agency each quarter. For more up-to-date complaint and investigation data, please view COPA’s Data Dashboards and Data Portal.

Pursuant to MCC § 2-78-105, the agency’s budget is determined by City Council as part of its annual budget process. However, the agency’s budget may not be less than one percent (1.0%) of non-grant funds appropriated to the Chicago Police Department by the City Council.

We encourage all qualified applicants to apply for a position at COPA. You can learn more about available positions at COPA by viewing our Careers page.

Transition to COPA

COPA is not a new name for IPRA. Between 2007 and September 15, 2017, IPRA (the Independent Police Review Authority) was responsible for the intake of all allegations of misconduct made against members of CPD and the investigation of certain categories of such complaints.  Subsequently, on October 5, 2016, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance establishing COPA as the successor to IPRA. On September 15, 2017, COPA began operating as a completely separate, new investigative entity. The leadership at COPA have set out to create a new agency from the ground up with a new staff and new rules for how investigations are conducted, all of which are grounded in the agency’s four key values: Integrity, Transparency, Independence, and Timeliness.

Complainants do not need to re-file any pending complaints with COPA.  Any cases that were still open when IPRA closed will be investigated by COPA. Once investigations are complete, complainants will be notified of the outcome of our investigation in a letter sent via certified mail.

All employees hired by COPA went through a rigorous hiring process to obtain positions with the agency. This included screening for qualified candidates, rigorous testing for certain positions (including each investigator position), and an in-depth interview process. IPRA employees interested in working at COPA were required to go through the same application process as external candidates in order to obtain a position with COPA. To learn more about the make-up of our staff, please visit the Our People page.

Our Staff

Pursuant to MCC §2-78-120(s), no investigator employed by the agency can currently be a sworn member of CPD, or have been a sworn member of CPD within the last five years.

All investigators completed a weeks-long training program called COPA Academy, which provides our investigative and legal staff training on investigative processes, practices and principles. The hands-on-training is taught by subject matter experts and COPA senior leadership, and covers a variety of subjects, including implicit bias, complaint intake, procedural justice, investigative strategies and tactics, and legal concepts.

To learn more about COPA’s training program, view the Organizational Development page.

Filing Complaints

Information on the different ways to file a complaint can be found on the Complaints page.

No. You can file a complaint directly with COPA. However, if you would like to do so, you can go to a district station to file a complaint. CPD members are required to take your complaint and forward it to COPA.

An individual’s incarceration does not preclude them from filing a complaint of misconduct. Individuals that are in custody can mail their complaint via the United States Postal Service to:

Civilian Office of Police Accountability
c/o COPA Intake Section
1615 W. Chicago Avenue, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60622

COPA can set up interviews with individuals in the custody of the County Jail or the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Family members and legal representatives can file a complaint at any time in person or by web, phone, or mail.

We understand that in some instances the individual who suffered the alleged misconduct cannot themselves file a complaint, such as, if the allegation of misconduct involves a minor or an individual who is deceased or otherwise incapacitated.  In such instances, the person’s attorney, parents, guardian or another family member may file the complaint on his or her behalf.

In addition, if you have witnessed any misconduct on the part of a CPD member, but are not the subject of such misconduct, you may also file a complaint.

In all instances, it is important that the person filing the complaint provides as much information as possible about the incident to assist in the investigation of the complaint.

Yes, minors may file a complaint. However, if at any point a minor will need to sign an affidavit, then a legal guardian will need to be present.

State law and applicable collective bargaining agreements require that, in most instances, an affidavit be signed where an allegation of misconduct is made against a police officer.  By signing the affidavit, the complainant is simply stating that the allegations being made against the officer are true and correct and, thus, not false.

COPA will attempt to secure an affidavit from the person filing the complaint or to secure enough information about the incident to seek an affidavit override in order to continue our investigation.  If COPA is unable either to obtain a signed affidavit from the complainant, or enough information to form the basis of seeking an affidavit override, the case will be closed.

To learn more about the affidavit requirement and the circumstances under which COPA will seek an affidavit override, view Section 2.4 of COPA’s Rules and Regulations.

Except with respect to allegations of excessive force, there is not a time frame in which a complaint must be filed.  For allegations of excessive force, state law requires that charges against the offending officer be brought before the CPB within five (5) years of the date of the underlying misconduct.  However, in all instances, it is best to file a complaint as soon as possible following an alleged incident of misconduct in order to allow COPA time to conduct a thorough investigation.

It is not necessary to know the names of the officers involved or the people who witnessed an incident, but it is always helpful for COPA investigators to have as much accurate and complete information as possible in order to conduct a fair, thorough, and timely investigation. Any information that can assist COPA in identifying potential witnesses such as addresses, descriptions, and nicknames is useful to help progress the investigation.

The complaint is received and it is assigned a Log Number.  COPA retains those complaints that are within its jurisdiction for investigation and refers those not within our jurisdiction to other investigative agencies for investigation.  COPA will send a letter within five (5) business days of receiving the complaint that indicates which agency is investigating the matter as well as contact information for the investigating agency should there be further questions.   To learn more about what happens after you file your complaint, view the Investigative Process page.

For an in-depth review of the process, please review the Investigative Process page. It is important to note that the investigation conducted by COPA is only one part of the accountability system. If COPA’s investigation results in a Sustained finding against the police officer(s), our investigation is then reviewed by CPD and could also be reviewed by the Chicago Police Board before COPA’s recommendation is enforced by the Superintendent of CPD.

To learn more about the possible outcomes of a COPA investigation, view Step 3 of the Investigative Process page.

Harassment or retaliation against a complainant by any officer is unacceptable and expressly prohibited pursuant to MCC §2-78-160.  If an individual believes he or she has been subjected to harassment or retaliation because a complaint has been filed, or because attention is being brought to a pending investigation, he or she should immediately notify COPA.

No.  COPA does not ask for or collect information about these matters. In addition, as a civilian investigative body, COPA investigators have no arrest powers. Our duty is to record all complaints, and gather information, related to allegations of police misconduct regardless of the complainant’s status or past criminal history.

Complainants and family members may call the COPA main office and ask to speak to a Case Liaison with questions, including the status of the investigation. Although the Case Liaisons cannot disclose specific details regarding the investigation, he or she will be able to provide updated information as it becomes available. Please be sure to have the unique Log Number assigned to your complaint when you call so that we can quickly locate your case file. The Log Number can be found at the top of each letter you receive from COPA regarding your case file..

Although COPA receives all complaints, COPA does not investigate all the complaints we receive. COPA only investigates those complaints that falls within its investigatory jurisdiction, which is defined by municipal ordinance. When COPA receives a complaint that falls outside its jurisdiction, it refers the complaint to another investigative agency for investigation. Most complaints that do not fall within COPA’s jurisdiction are referred to BIA of CPD. Some complaints are referred to other City agencies, such as the Inspector General for the City of Chicago. View the Jurisdiction page to learn more about COPA’s and BIA’s respective investigative jurisdictions.

Investigations

For a detailed list of the types of allegations of police misconduct that COPA is authorized to investigate, please view the Jurisdiction page.

COPA seeks to resolve all investigations in a timely manner, with the expectation that most investigations can be concluded within six (6) months. However, some investigations, such as officer-involved shootings, are more complex than others. For all investigations, there are factors that can introduce delays beyond COPA’s control, such as the availability of witnesses, and the collection and testing of forensic evidence. Pursuant to MCC §2-78-135, if any investigation is not completed by COPA within 6 months, the Chief Administrator will notify the complainant(s) and involved officer(s) of the reasons the case is still ongoing.  Such notice is required every 6 months that the case remains open.

COPA refers all officer-involved shootings to the Cook County State’s Attorney for an independent investigation and review and to the FBI and/or the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois if COPA determines that the shooting may have violated an individual’s civil rights.  COPA may refer other cases to the Cook County State’s Attorney and/or the Department of Justice (as applicable) based on, among other things, the nature of the complaint, the seriousness of the injury and the availability of video evidence.

If the CCSAO opens an investigation into an officer on the same matter that COPA is investigating, COPA will continue to conduct the administrative investigation while the CCSAO conducts a parallel criminal investigation.

When COPA recommends discipline or other remedial actions to the Chicago Police Department regarding one of its members, the Superintendent has 60 days to respond. If the Superintendent agrees with the recommended findings and disciplinary actions, then the process will continue as outlined the Investigative Process page.

While an investigation is pending, COPA will not publicly release the names of any officer, complainants, or witnesses involved.

Community Engagement

It is part of COPA’s mandate to address and educate members of the public about our mission, policies and ongoing operations, including how a person can file a complaint against a member of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). In addition to creating programming and events to deliver on this mandate, COPA also seeks to create opportunities to educate community members on their rights as civilians and the responsibilities of CPD as it pertains to when officers are permitted to use force.

COPA also supports several community outreach initiatives, including CPD district beat meetings, park districts events, and high school programs to facilitate the filing of complaints. To learn more about our upcoming community outreach events, view COPA’s Event Calendar.

Finally, together with members of the Chicago community, COPA has created the Community Advisory Council (CAC). The purpose of the CAC is to serve as a communication conduit between the community and the agency in order to provide input on COPA’s work. You can learn more about the work of the CAC here.

COPA understands the importance of public input and will often seek input from the public, including by providing public comment opportunities, soliciting feedback via surveys and face-to-face during public meetings. In addition, the public can send us feedback any time by completing our online Comment Form or emailing COPA at COPA-PublicAffairs@chicagocopa.org.

If your organization is interested in having a COPA representative attend a community meeting or another event, please contact us at communityoutreach@chicagocopa.org and provide as much detail as possible (date, time, purpose) about your meeting or event.

Policy

In addition to conducting investigations against individual members of CPD, COPA also has a role in recommending changes to CPD’s policies, practices, collective bargaining agreements, programs and training, in order to improve the accountability, effectiveness, integrity and transparency of CPD.

COPA can (and does) make recommendations concerning collective bargaining agreements.

Pursuant to MCC §2-78-120(m), COPA can make policy recommendations to CPD. COPA may make such recommendations through one of its investigations or they may come in the form of a public report, a policy report, a pattern and practice investigation, or an advisory letter.

CPD does not have to enact recommendations, but does have to respond to all recommendations within 60 days of COPA submitting them to the Superintendent for review pursuant to MCC §2-78-130(b). CPD’s response must “include a description of the actions the Superintendent has taken or is planning to take, if any, with respect to the issues raised in the report or recommendation.” If CPD declines to implement a recommendation, CPD’s response must provide an explanation as to why the recommendation will not be implemented.

Case Portal FAQs

The Police Accountability Task Force (PATF) that was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December 2015 issued a policy recommendation in February 2016 calling for the City to publicly release recordings and reports related to certain types of police incidents.  More specifically, the PATF recommended that these materials be released to the public no later than 60 calendar days from the date of incident, or at an earlier date when possible. The Mayor formally adopted the video release policy and COPA has implemented the policy through the launch of the case portal.

COPA and other law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies are allowed an opportunity for a one-time 30-day extension, if, in their respective opinion, public release of the evidence would impede an open investigation.

To read the full video release policy as written by the PATF.

The City of Chicago had generally followed a policy of not releasing any evidence pertaining to a police-involved incident while an investigation of the incident by any entity – COPA, CPD, the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, or the United States Attorney – was still ongoing.

It has become clear that the previous policy did not recognize the public’s need for timely information about these important incidents. The video release policy is intended to promote transparency for the public while also minimizing potential disruption to any ongoing criminal or administrative investigation.

The City of Chicago’s video release policy applies to the following types of incidents, each of which fall within COPA’s investigatory jurisdiction:

  • officer-involved shootings
  • officer-involved taser use that results in death or great bodily harm
  • incidents of death or great bodily harm (other than self-inflicted harm) that occur in police custody

Pursuant to the policy, evidentiary materials obtained by COPA in connection with pending investigations will be released within 60 days and will include the following:

  1. Video:
    1. Dashboard cameras
    2. POD video
    3. Body-cam video
    4. Lockup cam footage, and
    5. Third-party footage obtained by COPA (such as cellphone footage; CTA video footage, security camera footage obtained from private businesses, etc.)
  2. Audio:
    1. 911 calls
    2. OEMC dispatch recordings
    3. CPD radio calls, and
    4. Third-party audio
  3. Police Reports
    1. Arrest Reports
    2. Original Case Incident Reports
    3. Officer’s Battery Reports, and
    4. Tactical Response Reports

According to the PATF’s definition, for the purpose of the transparency policy, great bodily harm includes any injury that is serious enough to require treatment in a hospital or a medical facility located in a correctional institution.

The video release policy promulgated by the PATF only requires the release of evidence related to the incidents described above. Any incidents that do not fall within the scope of the video release policy, but reflect other uses of force by a member of the Chicago Police Department that may be of great public interest, will be posted under the “Other Use of Force” category on the website.

Evidence will be released within 60 days of the incident or the date COPA was notified of the incident (if later). COPA and other law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies may submit a written request to obtain a one-time extension of 30 days, if public release of the evidence would impede an open investigation.

Yes. Pursuant to the video release policy, to the extent that COPA has the information to do so, COPA will send a letter and attempt to place phone calls to individuals who have been identified as involved in the incident to inform them that evidence will be publicly released on the website. In the event that the subject is deceased, COPA will provide the notification to the subject’s family or legal representative, if known to COPA.  For cases in which a video recording scheduled for release on the website depicts the incident that is the subject of COPA’s investigation, COPA will offer that individual (or their family or legal representative) an opportunity to view the video and related evidence prior to its release.

No. The video release policy requires the release of materials in COPA’s possession related to any of the incident categories listed above. Often, many officers will be on the scene of an incident, and additional officers may submit reports relating to the incident. Appearing in materials released on the website does not mean that the officer is under investigation.

The video release policy was adopted to serve the public interest by promptly releasing material related to certain kinds of incidents. The policy operates separately from the underlying investigation and adjudication process.

The video release policy requires release of materials within 60 days of the incident. In many cases, misconduct investigations will not be complete prior to the release of materials pursuant to the video release policy.  The fact that materials relating to an incident have been released on the website does not mean that a determination has been made regarding the conduct of an officer depicted in the materials.

The materials released on the case portal include recordings from a variety of sources, such as dashboard cameras, POD cameras, CTA security cameras, as well as security cameras operated by private businesses. The varied quality and clarity of the videos on the case portal reflect the varying quality and clarity of the recording devices and systems from which the videos are obtained.

The speed of your internet connection will determine how quickly the video loads on the case portal.  All video on the case portal is played through COPA’s Vimeo account.  For information on the optimal internet speeds for watching video on the case portal, please click here.

In some cases, no video material exists. In other cases, dashboard cameras or other video sources like surveillance cameras may capture events leading up to an incident, or its aftermath, but not the incident itself.

In order to protect the privacy, and potentially the safety, of bystanders, witnesses and other individuals not involved in the incident, personal identifying information about those people, including their names, addresses, dates of birth, and other information that would reveal their identity, has been redacted.  In addition, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plates numbers, vehicle identification numbers, phone numbers and employee numbers of all individuals listed in the records, as well as police computer login numbers has been redacted.  Finally, personal health information has been redacted and certain 911 calls have been withheld pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).  If a 911 call related to a case on the case portal has been withheld, pursuant to HIPAA, it has been indicated.

There are a few reasons why an incident might not appear on the case portal:

  • The incident involves a juvenile: Evidence for incidents involving juveniles will not be released on the case portal, pursuant to the Illinois Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/1-1, et seq., which prohibits the City from releasing law enforcement records that relate to a minor who has been investigated, arrested, or taken into custody before his or her 18thbirthday, without a court order
  • The incident is recent and evidence has not yet been released, the incident may still be within the 60-day release window, or may be subject to a one-time 30 day extension as a result of a written request received from a law enforcement agency.
  • The case involves an incident for which a COPA investigation was completed and closed prior to the creation of the video release policy.
  • The incident is not one of the types of incidents covered by the policy.
  • The incident does not fall within COPA’s investigatory jurisdiction.

If you believe that you know of an incident that falls under the policy, is not subject to the juvenile exception, and is not on the website, you may contact COPA-PublicAffairs@chicagocopa.org with additional questions or for more information.

Cases can be searched by COPA log number, type of incident, date of the incident, date that COPA was notified of the incident, district of occurrence, and keyword search by the name of the subject of the incident.