CHICAGO — The head of Chicago’s police accountability agency has resigned.
Sydney Roberts, the chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, announced her resignation Wednesday. The move leaves the police watchdog agency without a leader as it is investigating major cases: the fatal shootings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and Anthony Alvarez and the wrongful raid of Anjanette Young’s home, among others.
COPA is responsible for investigating uses of force and police misconduct, determining if officers are at fault and, if so, recommending how they be punished.
But the agency has been criticized for dragging its feet on investigations and not taking seriously enough claims of abuse from police officers.
COPA has made progress in increasing transparency and holding the Police Department accountable “in the face of exceptional challenges,” Roberts said in a news release announcing her departure.
“I led COPA from the very start of my tenure with a keen awareness of the new agency’s importance in enabling civilian oversight of law enforcement,” Roberts said. “COPA has assumed an unprecedented role in ensuring law enforcement accountability through investigations of the use of deadly force and other misconduct complaints, transparency of investigative activity, out
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said an interim chief administrator will be installed and the city will seek a permanent replacement for Roberts.
Lightfoot said she did not ask for Roberts’ resignation — but the mayor did criticize COPA under Roberts’ leadership.
“… I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been extraordinarily unhappy with the way they’ve handled a number of things, not the least of which is taking over 18 months to move forward on an investigation regarding Anjanette Young,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday. “A lot of that time, nothing happened. That’s not acceptable.
“And I’ve been very candid both in public but also directly about the fact I think COPA needs to be much more responsive, much more mindful about the fact it carries a very important position and role in police accountability. And we’ve got to make sure they move forward in a thorough but expeditious way.”
COPA was created in October 2016 after a police officer shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in a highly controversial case. Roberts was appointed to the chief administrator role by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2018, with City Council approving the choice.
Roberts was formerly the director of the Illinois Secretary of State Department of Police and commander of the Maywood Police Department, among other roles. She spent more than 20 years in law enforcement, largely focused on investigating police misconduct, according to COPA’s online biography.
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