The intake process begins once COPA receives complaints from residents or incident notifications from the Chicago Police Department (CPD), and then cases are sorted and classified based on which investigative body will investigate the incident:

Investigative Steps

When COPA receives notifications or complaints that fall outside of COPA’s investigatory jurisdiction, we refer them to CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA). For more information, refer to the Jurisdiction page. Within five (5) business days after receiving a complaint or incident notification, COPA will send notification to the complainant, identifying whether the incident will be investigated by COPA or by BIA and explaining expected next steps.

After COPA has determined that an incident falls within our jurisdiction, we begin the investigative process. Below are general descriptions  of the steps for non-shooting investigations.

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To learn more about the investigative steps taken in officer-involved shooting investigations, see below:

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For each allegation brought against a CPD member, COPA will make one of the four findings referenced below:

Findings
Sustained Not Sustained Exonerated Unfounded
Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) Investigations

There is a preponderance of evidence showing that the officer’s conduct was objectively unreasonable based on the totality of the circumstances, and therefore, NOT WITHIN Department policy.

OIS Investigations

There is insufficient evidence to prove by a preponderance that the officer’s conduct was either reasonable or unreasonable based on the totality of the circumstances, therefore, the allegation can be neither Exonerated nor Sustained.

OIS Investigations

There is a preponderance of evidence showing that the officer’s conduct was objectively reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances, and therefore, WITHIN Department policy.

OIS Investigations

There is a preponderance of evidence showing that the conduct as alleged did not occur in that the officer did not, in fact, use deadly force.*

 

 

Non-OIS Investigations

The allegation was supported by sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action.

Non-OIS Investigations

The allegation is not supported by sufficient evidence which could be used to prove or disprove the allegation.

Non-OIS Investigations

The incident occurred, but the action taken by the officer(s) was deemed lawful and proper.

Non-OIS Investigations

The allegation was not based on the facts revealed through investigation, or the reported incident did not occur.

Disciplinary recommendation made and investigation undergoes Command Channel review at CPD.

Discipline ranges from Violation Noted to Separation.

Investigation undergoes Command Channel review at CPD. Investigation undergoes Command Channel review at CPD. Investigation undergoes Command Channel review at CPD.

COPA sends a letter to the subject/complainant and the involved CPD member(s) reflecting COPA’s finding(s) and recommendation(s).

*Such findings should be exceedingly rare because, pursuant to CPD’s Use of Deadly Force policy, “[t]he firing of a firearm in the direction of the person to be arrested, even though no intent exists to kill or inflict great bodily harm” is by definition, the use of deadly force.

If the Chief Administrator determines the allegations are sustained and discipline should be recommended, then the findings and/or recommendations will be shared with the CPD Superintendent. The Superintendent and, if applicable, that officer’s supervisory chain, (the Command Channel) has 60 days to review the findings and recommendations and respond to COPA.  However, after this process is complete it may be necessary for cases to go before the Chicago Police Board.  For a visual depiction of the review process, see below.

If you would like to see a more detailed visual of the complete review process click here.

Once the CPD Command Channel review and Police Board review processes are complete, it is CPD’s responsibility to enforce the final discipline that was determined for each allegation of police conduct.

COPA has no authority to enforce any recommended discipline, but will notify the subject/complainant and officer(s) of the final decision and administrative action. Once the notifications are complete, the investigative file is closed.

Denotes when in the process the subject/complainant will receive an official letter from COPA regarding the status of the investigation.