Pursuant to Sections 2-78-120(r) and 2-78-170 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, the Chief Administrator is authorized to adopt rules and procedures for the conduct of the agency that are consistent with due process of law, equal protection under the law and all other applicable local, state and federal laws.
Revised October 2023
Article I: Introduction
- to ensure compliance with the law, promote the use of best practices, foster integrity and independence in the performance of its duties, and provide transparency regarding the procedures and standards for the conduct of those activities; and,
- to set forth standards on its operations through the development and implementation of internal policies and guidance
The application of these rules shall vary according to the facts and circumstances of specific incidents, and nothing in these rules and regulations shall be construed to confer on any party any right, privilege, entitlement, or immunity not otherwise established by law.
The mission of COPA is to conduct administrative investigations within its jurisdiction with integrity, transparency, independence, and timeliness. The goal of every COPA investigation is to determine whether allegations of misconduct are well-founded, applying a preponderance of the evidence standard; to identify and address patterns of police misconduct; and, based on information obtained through such investigations, to make policy recommendations to improve the Police Department and thereby reduce incidents of police misconduct.
COPA strives to conduct investigations with the highest level of integrity and independence in order to make findings based on a thorough review of the evidence and accurate legal analysis, without regard for political influence.
- “BIA” – means the Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs;
- “Chief Administrator” – means the Chief Administrator of COPA or the Chief Administrator’s designee;
- “City” – means the City of Chicago;
- “Closed investigation” – means an investigation that COPA or BIA has concluded and the disciplinary recommendation has been entered by the Chicago Police Department;
- “Coercion” – means the use of improper or unlawful force or threats, express or implied, in order to compel a person to act against his or her will. As defined herein, “coercion” includes compelling a person to make statements;
- “Commission” means the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability means the commission established by MCC §2-80;
- “Complainant” – means any individual making allegations of misconduct regarding a member of the Police Department;
- “Concluded Investigation” – means COPA has reached an administrative disposition, which may or may not include findings or a disciplinary recommendation;
- “Domestic violence” – means physical abuse (other than sexual abuse), harassment, stalking, intimidation or violations of orders of protection (or similar court orders) involving a sworn officer’s family or household member. As used in this definition, the term “family or household member” means spouses or former spouses; parents, children or stepchildren whether by blood or adoption; persons who share or formerly shared a common dwelling; persons who have or are alleged to have a child in common; or persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship;
- “Excessive force” – means a Member’s application of force which, either because of the type of force employed, or the extent to which such force is employed, exceeds the force that reasonably appears to be necessary under all the circumstances surrounding the incident, including whether any use of force was appropriate;
- “Final Summary Report” – means the report which summarizes the content and outcome of the investigation, commonly referred to as an FSR;
- “Improper search and seizure” – means the improper search and/or seizure of a person, place, or thing in violation of Police Department policy or established law;
- “Police Board” – means the police board established by MCC §2-84;
- “Police Department” means the Department of Police established by MCC §2-84;
- “Superintendent” – means the Superintendent of the Police Department or the Superintendent’s designee;
- “Unlawful denial of access to counsel” – means a denial of access to counsel in violation of established law;
- “Serious bodily harm” – means an injury of a graver and more serious character than an ordinary battery (see People v. Carmack (1977), 50 Ill.App.3d 983, 986, 366 N.E.2d 103.). This may include, but is not limited to, injuries resulting in: extreme pain; unconsciousness; disfigurement; hospital confinement; permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part, organ, or mental faculty; or a substantial risk of death (18 U.S.C. § 1365(h)(3)); and
- “Sexual misconduct” – means (1) any behavior, occurring on or off duty, by an officer of the Police Department that takes advantage of the officer’s position in law enforcement to misuse authority and power, including force, in order to commit a sexual act, initiate sexual contact with another person, or respond to a perceived sexually motivated cue (from a subtle suggestion to an overt action) from another person; (2) any sexual communication or behavior, occurring on or off duty, by a CPD officer that would likely be construed as lewd, lascivious, inappropriate, or conduct unbecoming of an officer of CPD; or (3) any attempted or completed act, occurring on or off duty, by an officer of the Police Department of nonconsensual sexual conduct or nonconsensual sexual penetration, as defined in Section 11-0.1 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012, criminal sexual assault, as defined in Sections 11-1.20 through 11-1.40 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012, or criminal sexual abuse, as defined in Sections 11-1.50 through 11-1.60 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012.
- “State’s Attorney” means the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney.
- “Verbal abuse” – means the use of oral or written remarks that are overtly insulting, mocking, or belittling, directed at a person based upon the actual or perceived race, immigration status, color, gender, age, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, parental status, military discharge status, source of income, or gender identity or expression of that person. “Verbal abuse” shall also include any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.
As set forth in §MCC 2-78-120, COPA shall investigate all of the following:
- incidents, including those in which no allegation of misconduct is made, in which a Police Department member discharges:
- a firearm in a manner that potentially could strike another individual,
- a stun gun or taser in a manner that results in death or serious bodily injury, or
- in the Chief Administrator’s discretion, other weapons discharges and other use of Police Department-issued equipment as a weapon that results in death or serious bodily injury;
- incidents of an “officer-involved death,” as that term is defined in 50 ILCS 727/1-5.
As set forth in §MCC 2-78-120, COPA has authority to investigate the following:
- complaints against members of the Police Department alleging domestic violence, excessive force, coercion, sexual misconduct, or verbal abuse;
- incidents, including those in which no allegation of misconduct is made, where a person dies or sustains a serious bodily injury while detained or in Police Department custody, or as a result of police actions, such as during attempts to apprehend a suspect; and
- complaints against members of the Police Department alleging improper search or seizure of either individuals or property, or unlawful denial of access to counsel.
The Chief Administrator, in his or her discretion, may review lawsuits and claims against the Police Department, or one or more of its members, or against the City, alleging police misconduct that falls within COPA’s jurisdiction, where such lawsuit or claim was subsequently settled or resulted in a judgment against such member, the Police Department or the City, for the purpose of reopening a prior investigation or opening a new investigation of alleged police misconduct.
Subject to the provisions of any applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), the Chief Administrator may also review and investigate the facts of individual civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings involving alleged police misconduct, in order to identify and investigate incidents of police misconduct or to make recommendations to improve Police Department policies and practices within COPA’s jurisdiction.
Article II: Complaint Intake
- the Chief Administrator becomes aware of evidence not available at the time the investigation was concluded or closed that could materially affect the results of that investigation;
- the Chief Administrator determines that the manner in which the investigation was concluded has resulted in a gross miscarriage of justice; or
- following a review or audit of a closed investigation by the Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety, the Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety recommends that the investigation be reopened.
Article III: Investigations
- Constitution of the United States;
- Constitution of the State of Illinois;
- Laws of the State of Illinois;
- Municipal Code of the City of Chicago;
- Applicable collective bargaining agreements;
- Police Board Rules;
- City of Chicago Personnel Rules;
- COPA Rules and Regulations;
- COPA Policies and Guidance Handbook; and
- Consent Decree entered in Illinois v. Chicago, 17-cv-6260 (N.D. Ill., Jan. 31, 2019)
COPA’s investigations will encompass a comprehensive assessment of the Police Department members’ conduct relative to all applicable Police Department rules and directives.
Due to the identity of the involved Department Member, COPA staff member, or complainant, and/or nature of the incident, there may exist a conflict for any COPA investigator to investigate the incident. COPA will seek to refer such investigations to the OIG or BIA, as appropriate.
Such duty to cooperate includes that each department will make its premises, equipment, personnel, books, records, and papers available to COPA as soon as is practicable and permissible under the applicable department rules and collective bargaining agreements and as permitted by law.
In addition, MCC §2-78-120(o) provides that, subject to applicable law, COPA will have full access to all information in the possession or control of the Police Department, the Police Board, and any other City department or agency in order to conduct investigations within the Chief Administrator’s jurisdiction.
- The investigator will ask the interviewee for consent to audio or video record the interview.
- If the interviewee declines to give consent, the interview will not be recorded. However, at the conclusion of the interview, the COPA investigator will create a written statement that summarizes the content of the interview and will provide the interviewee with an opportunity to review and sign the written statement.
- No adverse action will be taken, or adverse inference drawn, against any interviewee who declines to consent to record an interview.
A person requesting representation at a COPA interview will be given a reasonable amount of time to obtain union representation or an attorney (as applicable).
If a person elects to bring a union representative or an attorney, that representative may not answer questions for the interviewee and may not obstruct the interview. Interviewees will be advised that they are permitted to request a temporary break to consult with their representative. Representatives are permitted to request the clarification of questions.
If a Police Department member accused of misconduct chooses to proceed with a COPA interview without a union representative or attorney present, the COPA interviewer will request that the Police Department member sign a waiver memorializing the waiver of representation for that interview.
COPA is charged with conducting administrative investigations of all “officer-involved deaths,” as defined by the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act (“PCRIA”), 50 ILCS 727. COPA does not have the authority to conduct criminal investigations.
Additionally, pursuant to COPA’s powers and duties under MCC §2-78-120 and PCRIA, COPA will investigate officer-involved fatal motor vehicle accidents in which the victim of the accident was involved in the pursuit. Where the victim of a fatal motor vehicle accident was not involved in the underlying law enforcement action, COPA may elect to investigate or assign the investigation to BIA.
The Police Department’s Major Accident Investigations Unit (“MAIU”) notifies COPA when these incidents occur. The Police Department’s Crime Prevention Information Center or OEMC may also notify COPA of these incidents. As such, COPA collaborates with representatives from the MAIU on these investigations in furtherance of its administrative investigation.
At the Chief Administrator’s discretion, a COPA pattern or practice investigation may be initiated based on any of the following:
- a recommendation by a Deputy Chief (or designee) assigned to COPA’s Investigations section based on evidence arising from complaint intake information or from investigative findings;
- a request by the Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety;
- a request by the COPA General Counsel (or designee) based on evidence arising from matters of civil or criminal litigation;
- a request by the COPA Community Advisory Council;
- a request by the Police Department;
- a request by a group of at least three members of the Public Safety Committee of the City Council; or
- a request by the Corporation Counsel.
Where any member of the COPA investigative or legal staff believes there is evidence supporting a pattern or practice of misconduct by Police Department members, they may report such evidence to a Deputy Chief for the purpose of preparing a recommendation to the Chief Administrator.
In determining whether a pattern or practice investigation is warranted, the Chief Administrator will consider any relevant facts, including but not limited to:
- the seriousness of the alleged pattern or practice;
- the prevalence of the alleged pattern or practice;
- the existence and adequacy of Police Department rules, policies, training or orders relevant to the pattern or practice;
- the risk to the public inherent in allowing the pattern or practice to continue unchecked;
- the liability to the City inherent in allowing the pattern or practice to continue unchecked; and
- the impact of the pattern or practice on the Police Department’s ability to fulfill its mission.
The Chief Administrator may choose to refer evidence regarding a pattern or practice of misconduct to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation by that office.
At the conclusion of a pattern or practice investigation, COPA will issue a report to the Police Department. As with other investigations, the Police Department shall have 60 days in which to respond to the Report and any recommendations made therein. COPA will make the Report and the Police Department’s response publicly available after the Police Department’s response has been received.
COPA may refer all other investigations within its jurisdiction to the CCSAO, FBI, and/or USAO for consideration of criminal charges or review for federal civil rights violations. In determining whether a referral is appropriate, COPA will consider factors such as the nature of the complaint, the seriousness of any injury, the availability of video evidence, the date of occurrence, and the weight and availability of evidence indicating criminal conduct by a Police Department member.
In addition, COPA may defer issuing findings until all relevant forensic testing has been completed and analyzed. Because these important investigative processes are conducted by other law enforcement organizations, COPA cannot control how quickly these tasks are completed.
Article IV: Investigative Findings, Review and Reporting
- Sustained – where it is determined the allegation is supported by a preponderance of the evidence;
- Not Sustained – where it is determined there is insufficient evidence to prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence;
- Unfounded – where it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that an allegation is false or not factual; or
- Exonerated – where it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct described in the allegation occurred, but it is lawful and proper.
COPA’s mediation process shall follow the City’s Mediation Policy and COPA’s internal guidance.
The Superintendent may request additional investigation. In such case, the Chief Administrator will confer with the investigative staff to assess whether COPA agrees that additional investigation is warranted. If so, COPA will undertake the additional investigative steps requested. If not, the Chief Administrator will reply to the Superintendent’s request in writing.
COPA will report on the number and outcome of non-concurrences in its quarterly and annual reports.
Unless otherwise specified by COPA, the Superintendent is required to respond to such recommendations within 60 days of receipt and detail the actions taken or that will be taken to implement such recommendations. All such recommendations (together with any response received by the Superintendent) will be published publicly.
Additionally, at the conclusion of an investigation, the Chief Administrator may issue a report or correspondence to the Superintendent if such investigation uncovered a problem that hinders the effectiveness of Police Department operations and programs or if the investigation has identified a verifiable potential liability or risk that warrants attention by the Police Department.
The report or notice does not identify, or make any specific disciplinary recommendations about, any individual Police Department members. Unless otherwise specified by COPA, the report or notice will require a response from the Police Department within 60 days, and will not be posted publicly until the Police Department has had an opportunity to respond. Any public posting will include the Police Department’s response, if any.
- promote best practices in policing and the accountability system;
- address specific gaps in policy and training; or
- improve the integrity and transparency of the Police Department’s operations and performance.
Any such recommendations will be made in writing and may be directed to any of the following: the Superintendent, the Chairman of the City Council Committee on Public Safety, the Commission, and the Police Board.
Article V: Transparency & Communications
However, COPA recognizes the public interest in timely and accurate information about the manner in which members of the Police Department interact with citizens. COPA also recognizes that individuals involved in incidents and their families may have privacy interests that warrant consideration. COPA abides by the City’s Video Release Policy [hyperlink text to City VRP], to the extent that such policies are consistent with applicable CBAs and municipal, state and federal law.
COPA personnel are permitted to access COPA files, reports, and other confidential, privileged, or personal information in the possession, custody, or control of COPA solely in connection with an official and duly authorized matter that is relevant to the performance of an employee’s assigned tasks.
FOIA requests can be submitted to COPA through the City’s online submission portal. COPA will also accept written requests submitted by personal delivery or via mail, email, or fax. Those requests will be processed and returned through the online portal.