CHICAGO — In an hours-long hearing continuing into Tuesday evening, aldermen excoriated Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Police Department for their conduct in a raid wrongfully targeting Anjanette Young’s home and the city’s controversial handling of the aftermath.
Aldermen convened Tuesday for a virtual hearing of the joint committees of Public Safety and Health and Human Relations to examine the incident and the Police Department’s search warrant procedures.
At the meeting, coming after days of backlash surrounding City Hall, aldermen took aim at officers’ behavior during the raid, the slow pace of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigation and how Lightfoot’s administration handled video footage of the incident.
Several aldermen said what happened to Young was not an isolated incident but pointed to an “institutional” problem with many to blame beyond the 12 officers present for the raid.
“This should have been alarming to anyone that looked at it,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said. “The fact that it wasn’t really causes me great concern about the direction this city is going in.”
Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said the incident was not the result of a “few bad apples.”
“The fact that the victim here is a Black woman calls attention to the racist and unconstitutional ways in which all levels of government, including our city and our Police Department, have treated and continue to treat people of color,” he said.
Aldermen also criticized the mayor for not participating in the hearing. In a press conference Monday, Lightfoot said she was willing to continue answering questions about the raid but rebuffed a letter from several aldermen requesting she appear.
“Press conferences are not hearings, individual meetings with aldermen are not hearings,” said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd). “This is the place and forum to come answer questions from this body, and not showing up is not good government.”
Police Supt. David Brown conceded the officers involved in the February 2019 raid violated Young’s human rights when they burst through her door as she was preparing for bed. She was unable to put on clothes or answer the door before officers barreled through.
The officers searched Young’s home as she was left naked and handcuffed. She told the officers she lives alone and they had the wrong home.
Twelve officers have been assigned to desk duty pending the resolution of the COPA inquiry, which already has taken more than a year. That investigation is looking into the events that led to officers raiding the home of the innocent social worker, as well as the conduct of the officers during the raid, COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts said Tuesday.
“I think the bigger issue of what happened is that Ms. Young’s human rights were violated and officers should be held accountable for violating her human rights in violation of our human rights policy,” Brown said.
Brown told the committees the department made changes to search warrant procedures earlier this year and will make more following the fallout from the Young video. The department executes “around 1,500” search warrants a year, Brown said.
- Officers now need approval from a deputy chief or above for a search warrant.
- The department must and will clarify which teams conduct search warrants.
- Lieutenants or higher-ranking supervisors will have to be on the scene when the search warrant is executed.
- Department policy should require third party corroboration for search warrants “without exception.”
- Internal methods will be created to review search warrants, including a database of outcomes of search warrants.
- Enhanced training.
Other changes were made earlier this year: Police now need to wear and activate body cameras while search warrants are conducted, all teams must have at least two officers in uniform during a search, an investigation must be initiated if the wrong home is searched and two police supervisors must sign off on a warrant before it’s brought to a prosecutor.
One of those supervisors must be at least a sergeant and the other must be at least a lieutenant.
During the meeting, Brown also agreed to a “non-negotiable” demand from Hairston that a female officer be present when conducting all search warrants.
Brown said officers conducted a so-called “knock and announce” search warrant on Young’s home, that requires a “reasonable” amount of time for the suspect to respond. However, department policy does not define “reasonable” and the lack of clarity has been abused by officers.
“The Chicago Police Department rarely if ever asks for no-knock warrants, but what they do is execute warrants in a manner consistent with a no-knock warrant, so that is an area of inquiry we’ll be looking into as well,” said Andrea Kertsen, COPA’s chief of investigative operations.
Brown also said the department will only execute controversial “no-knock” warrants when there is an “immediate” threat to life inside the location where a warrant is being executed.
Ald. Sophia King (4th) said it’s not enough to limit the use of no-knock warrants because it wouldn’t have prevented the raid on Young’s home.
Deborah Witzburg, deputy inspector general for public safety, told the committee it’s hard for her office to know how many “wrongful raids” occur every year because the Police Department doesn’t identify in a database when officers serve a search warrant at the wrong address.
There are two categories of “wrong raids,” Witzburg said: when officers raid the home of the address listed on the search warrant but the information that informed the warrant was wrong, and when officers raid the home of an address not listed on the search warrant.
The first situation, as in the case of Young, does not trigger an automatic internal investigation into what went wrong, Witzburg said.
Although it was not voted on during the hearing, members of the Black Caucus introduced a resolution calling for “immediate change” to the search warrant procedures of the department.
The resolution calls on city Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate the incident and for creation of a City Council committee to provide “oversight and review” of the city’s risk management and strategy in relation to police misconduct settlements.
The resolution also calls for standardizing search warrant applications, “abolishing” the sole reliance of paid informants to obtain a search warrant, establishing a database to track the “reliability of sources.”
Ahead of the meeting, Lightfoot announced in a letter to aldermen she appointed former federal judge Ann Claire Williams and the law firm Jones Day to investigate the incident.
Williams’ “mandate will include every relevant department, including the Mayor’s Office,” the letter stated.
In the letter, Lightfoot also said she supported an investigation into the scandal by Ferguson and directed her staff to cooperate “with him and his team in any way.”
Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th) promised Tuesday to hold additional hearings of the joint committee into the incident.
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