CHICAGO — Officials across multiple city departments mishandled the aftermath of the Chicago Police Department’s wrongful 2019 raid of Anjanette Young’s home and misled journalists covering the fallout, an investigation from the city’s Inspector General published Friday found.
In February 2019, Young was handcuffed while naked as police officers rummaged through her home after mistakenly targeting her in the execution of a search warrant.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed the Chicago Department of Law last year after CBS Chicago, which first made video of the raid public, reported that city attorneys had fought Young’s request for body camera footage of the incident. Lightfoot’s administration also faced heat for asking a judge to punish Young and her attorney for sharing the video after they acquired it.
The fallout ran so deep that Lightfoot asked for the resignation of then-Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner in December 2020.
The raid and its backlash also heaped pressure on the Chicago Police Department to overhaul its warrant execution policies. Police leaders rolled out a series of reforms in March, including by restricting the circle of police leaders who are allowed to approve a raid.
- Lightfoot commits to policy changes amid raid fallout
- Police, investigators vow policy changes as aldermen blast city agencies over botched raid: ‘This has become a circus’
- Lightfoot, Brown push to tighten rules on police warrants as Young raid investigations drag on
The City Council in December approved a $2.9 million settlement to end the lawsuit Young brought against the city.
‘Inefficient and wasteful management’
The inspector’s report implicated officials from the mayor’s office, the Department of Law (DOL), the Chicago Police Department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in mismanagement of the public and legal backlash of the wrongful raid.
The report found that city officials “failed to appropriately respond to a victim of a CPD wrong raid, failed to act with transparency in City operations, and performed a series of governmental actions in a manner that prioritized communications and public relations concerns over the higher mission of City government.”
Further, the watchdog’s report found “the inefficient and wasteful management of the City’s response to a wrong raid” in the form of “false or unfounded statements; disregard for COPA’s role and independence; and unbecoming conduct by DOL personnel.”
“The investigation found that actions taken by current and former City employees implicated numerous rules of conduct and took place within a larger failure of the City’s administrative systems to respond to Young’s wrong raid and subsequent requests for information,” according to the report.
Additionally, Lightfoot’s hiring of outside law firm Jones Day to review the wrong raid and actions taken afterward raised “transparency concerns” and prevented the watchdog from “assessing” the scope of the Jones Day investigation.
“Faced with the legally insurmountable obstacle of attorney-client privilege, [the Office of the Inspector General] could not examine the parallel evidence and interview reports of the same witnesses who spoke with OIG, could not determine whether undisclosed interviews corroborated or contradicted one another, and could not investigate whether Jones Day adduced additional mitigating or aggravating information separate from the evidence collected by OIG,” according to the report.
Neither a spokesperson for Lightfoot nor a spokesperson for the police department have returned requests for comment.
The Jones Day investigation found Lightfoot did not purposely hide details of wrong raid but that the city failed to consider Young’s dignity.
False statements, ‘unbecoming behavior’
The watchdog found several instances of “false or unfounded statements” made by city officials, including November 2019 emails showing “inconsistent and unfounded statements by the assistant press secretary about whether, and when, the City had opened an investigation into the wrong raid.”
The emails showed COPA had not been notified of the wrong raid after it occurred and was only set to open an investigation of the raid nine months after it occurred. But the former assistant press secretary, who was not named in the report, told a CBS 2 reporter COPA’s investigation had been opened in 2019, according to the watchdog’s report.
“While the assistant press secretary was not legally required to tell the truth to or avoid misleading reporters, their conduct demonstrated a willingness to allow and encourage false narratives to enter the public sphere and an apparent intent to mislead a reporter inquiring about a story of significant public interest.”
Subsequently, a Dec. 15, 2020 news release stated that Lightfoot was unaware of the wrong raid or video showing the incident. However, Lightfoot later acknowledged she had been made aware of the raid in November 2019.
A Dec. 30, 2020 news release attempted to demonstrate Lightfoot had “limited discussions regarding Young,” but the inspector’s report found Lightfoot “took part in a conference call with senior staff on November 11, 2019, during which staff compiled a list of the Mayor’s detailed questions about the facts and circumstances of the Young wrong raid and any litigation or administrative investigation into the raid.”
Whether or not Lightfoot recalled the discussions, the watchdog concluded that the news releases denying the mayor had prior knowledge of the wrong raid “by the Mayor’s press office lacked the appropriate due diligence and fact-checking, and created an incomplete and inaccurate depiction to the public and the media of the City’s prior discussions of the wrong raid.”
Separately, the watchdog’s report found that city and former senior police officials failed to report the wrong raid to COPA until nine months after the incident occurred.
“The raid occurred on February 21, 2019; yet no complaint was opened until November 12, 2019, nearly nine months later,” according to the report.
CPD senior officials’ failure “to report or ensure the reporting of the wrong raid for investigation implicated the CPD rules and regulations requiring members to ‘report promptly’ to COPA such actions,” the investigation found. And the failure to report the wrong raid “likewise implicates a ‘failure to promote the Department’s efforts to … accomplish its Goals.’”
Additionally, employees in the city’s law department, which “played a prominent role in the City’s dealings” with Young, “engaged in conduct unbecoming City employees, especially those tasked with representing the people of Chicago in a case where the plaintiff suffered a humiliating invasion of privacy following an undisputedly wrong raid on her home,” the report read.
The “unbecoming behavior” included an email a law department deputy supervisor sent to their litigation team after CBS 2 published the video footage of the wrong raid, writing “we’ll never get CBS to stop airing this garbage… but maybe this will send a message to Plaintiff’s attorneys to stop giving them videos.”
According to the inspector’s report, 20 of the employees who were interviewed for the investigation no longer work for the city, meaning the watchdog could take the “symbolic” action of placing those former employees on a Human Resources list of ineligible re-hires.
“OIG’s investigation revealed a failure of City government that, taken as a whole, adds up to more than a sequence of individual actions by City employees,” the report concluded. “Many of the Mayor’s Office, COPA, CPD, and DOL employees OIG interviewed played roles in a series of events that violated proper government practices, if not formal policies, and which were exceedingly harmful to Young.”
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