CHICAGO — An outside investigation of the city’s response to the Anjanette Young raid found “failures in oversight and accountability” by the four city departments responsible for responding to the aftermath of the search.
But the probe found “no evidence” Mayor Lori Lightfoot purposefully concealed any information, or “took action with malicious intent to add to Ms. Young’s mistreatment or otherwise harm her.”
Instead, former federal judge Ann Claire Williams and the law firm Jones Day, who led the independent investigation, described a “flawed” system that inflicted suffering upon Ms. Young after the initial raid. A summary of the report was made public Thursday, one day after City Council approved a $2.9 million payout to settle the lawsuit filed by Young.
“Her suffering at the hands of the Chicago Police Department begins February 21, 2019. But it didn’t end there,” Williams said. The system failed Ms. Young on many levels. The suffering inflicted upon her was made worse by the treatment she received from numerous city departments.
The summary report said “some city employees did not adequately consider Ms. Young’s dignity in the course of its actions.”
“Some city employees did not live up to the public service mission,” and some employees “failed to take ownership,” resulting in a “scattered response,” according to a brief summary of the report.
Williams said her team found “no evidence” Mayor Lori Lightfoot or “any current or former city employees took action with malicious intent to add to Ms. Young’s mistreatment” or otherwise harm her.
The investigation examined the conduct of the Mayor’s Office, the Law Department, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the raid and when footage of the incident was aired by CBS 2 last year, shocking Chicagoans and leading to resignations in Lightfoots administration.
WIlliams’ team interviewed more than 40 current or former employees in the probe and reviewed more than 250,00 internal city documents.
The investigation did not probe the raid itself. Report from a separate investigation by COPA recommended discipline for a handful of officers, including termination for the sergeant in charge the night of the raid.
In a statement, Lightfoot said the city looks forward to implementing policies and procedures that may result from the investigation.
She said the 2019 raid denied Young “her basic dignity as a human being.”
“What she experienced was unacceptable,” Lightfoot said. “… While my words cannot change what happened to Ms. Young, it is my sincere hope the settlement award and the release of the Jones Day report brings some measure of peace to her, her family, her community, and our city.”
The city’s top watchdog also conducted a separate investigation of the incident, including the actions of the Lightfoot administration handling of the aftermath of the raid. That report has been completed but not been released publicly. WTTW reported that Lightfoot rejected the report, saying “I don’t think that report is complete.”
In February, Young sued the city, the Police Department and the 12 officers involved in the botched raid. The nine-count lawsuit alleged officers violated Young’s civil rights on the night of the incident and city officials, including Lightfoot, engaged in a conspiracy and cover up by denying the release of raid footage.
Corporation Counsel Celia Meza told alderpeople this week the $2.9 million was a “fair and just” offer and if the lawsuit were to go to a jury trial, it was “not unreasonable” to expect Young would seek $13-$16 million.
The city successfully got several counts of the lawsuit thrown out, but at issue in a jury trial would be whether a jury believed officers involved acted with “willful and wanton” intent, Meza said.
“The city has never disputed the Ms. Young suffered an indignity on February 19, 2019,” Meza said Monday. “And this settlement is presented to all of you in an attempt, at this state, to mitigate the potential risks of proceeding further in this case and also to provide Ms. Young and the city of Chicago closure on the events that took place.”
CBS Chicago aired footage of the February 2019 raid in a December 2020 broadcast. The raid, the result of a search warrant based on the bad tip of a single source, showed officers bursting through Young’s door seconds after knocking, then handcuffing Young and leaving her to stand naked in front of the all male police officers as she pleaded with them they were in the wrong home.
Lightfoot’s administration fought unsuccessfully to block the news station from airing the footage. In the days after the footage aired, Lightfoot at first said she was unaware of the raid but a day later admitted her staff had alerted her to the raid via email a year earlier.
Emails later released by the administration showed Lightfoot was sent an email by then deputy mayor for public safety, Susan Lee, that described the “pretty bad” raid in detail.
“I have a lot of questions about this one,” Lightfoot wrote back, adding the city’s chief risk office, Tamika Puckett, onto the email chain. “Can we do a quick call about it?”
Lightfoot later said she did not ask the Law Department to attempt to block the footage from airing. Corporation counsel Mark Flessner and two department officials resigned amid the unfolding scandal.
On Wednesday, Flessner wrote in an op-ed published in the Tribune that the settlement “should have been in the range of $50,000” and said it was not based on legal precedent, but rather was an example of Lightfoot using “taxpayer money to jumpstart her reelection campaign.”
Flessner also criticized Lightfoot, who he described as having “no professional respect for any of the hardworking, dedicated public servants who make this city run day to day. That is why her tenure has been a disaster.”
After the meeting, Lightfoot responded to Flessner’s by saying he was fired because “he repeatedly said disparaging things related to Ms. Young and fundamentally, what was clear, he just didn’t see her.”
“The fact is, whether it was because she’s a woman or because she’s a woman of color, he didn’t value her experience as he needed to, just as a basic human being,” she said.
Lightfoot publicly and privately apologized to Young while her administration sought to dismiss Young’s lawsuit in court, leading Young to tell reporters in June she felt “betrayed” by the first term mayor.
Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, said in June Young was offered a “take or leave it” offer of less than half of $2.5 million — the sum the city paid to settle a similar case — during a May 27 meeting with Meza and outside attorneys hired by the city to handle the case.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released a report of its investigation into the raid in November, recommending discipline for several officers, including that Sgt. Alex Wolinski should be fired.
Those findings would “make it a little more difficult” for the city to defend the lawsuit, Meza said.
The Police Department has reformed its search warrant policy in the wake of the raid, but Young, some alderpeople and community activists have pushed the department to go further. The “Anjanette Young Ordinance,” which would codify search warrant reforms in the city’s municipal code, has not been called for a vote before City Council.