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Lightfoot’s Pick For Police Oversight Boss Apologizes To Slain Officer Ella French’s Family While Defending Agency’s Report

Mayor Lori Lightfoot still supports interim COPA chief Andrea Kersten, but said French’s inclusion in the report was “tone deaf and it was absolutely unnecessary.”

Left: Interim COPA chief Andrea Kersten; Right: Slain Chicago Police officer Ella French
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s nominee to lead the Civilian Office of Police Accountability offered a “sincere and heartfelt” apology to the family of slain police officer Ella French Thursday evening.

Andrea Kersten, the interim leader of the police oversight agency, came under scrutiny after the agency’s report on its investigation into the wrongful raid of Anjanette Young’s home recommended a three-day suspension for French. The report was finalized in April — before French was killed — but publicly released last week.

Speaking at a meeting of the Chicago Police Board, Kersten said “there is more that COPA could have done to message publicly the timeline and circumstances surrounding Officer French’s inclusion in our report.”

“She is to be honored and remembered as a hero,” Kersten said of French. “I have profound regret and sadness that the work of our agency has in any way hurt the French family and those who mourn her and I will work steadfastly to ensure that a situation such as this never happens again.”

The statement came a day after Lightfoot said Kersten “has got to explain herself and she’s got to apologize to the family.” Lightfoot said French’s inclusion in the report was “tone deaf and it was absolutely unnecessary.”

The report noted French was one of the only officers who treated Young with dignity during the ordeal. Still, COPA recommended a three-day suspension for French because she failed to turn on her body-worn camera in a timely manner and didn’t file and incident report after briefly detaining a man outside Young’s home.

In a statement, Kersten argued the agency was legally bound to release the unredacted report, but she said she’d work to change that process going forward. The report was finalized in April, months before French was shot and killed in the line of duty in August.

Before it could be released, it was sent to Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, who took 90 days to review the proposed discipline COPA recommended for officers involved in the raid. 

“I would welcome a conversation to examine a process for ensuring that a situation like this never happens again. Furthermore, there are opportunities here for COPA to share with the Police Department our approach to engaging impacted civilians and their families as they navigate this oversight system,” Kersten said. 

Kersten’s nomination was opposed by 20 alderpeople, who wrote Lightfoot a letter saying they were “dismayed, disheartened and outraged” about the report and that Kersten “does not have what it takes to be at the helm of COPA as demonstrated by her release of this report.” 

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) threw another roadblock in Kerstens path to being confirmed by a majority of City Council on Wednesday, using a parliamentary maneuver to stall her nomination.

By sending the ordinance nominating her to the top post to the Rules Committee, Lopez forced Lightfoot and City Council allies to re-refer the nomination to the appropriate committee. 

On Wednesday, Lightfoot said Kersten has her full support.

“She should be judged by the entire body of work and her vision for moving this organization forward. And if she does all those things, I’m confident that she’ll win 26 votes to be able to move forward and be confirmed,” Lightfoot said. 

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