CHICAGO — Organizers working with migrants are demanding updates on the city’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by police officers working at a West Side police station.
It’s been a week since the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — the city’s police oversight agency — launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Ogden (10th) District police officers. The police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs also opened an investigation in the matter.
The Sun-Times reported one officer is accused of impregnating a teenage girl who had been living in the station, while other officers are accused of “improper sexual relations” with migrants there.
Details surrounding the potential victim or victims, potential officers accused and specifics of the allegations remain unknown.
Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office has remained silent on the issue, with multiple requests for comment going unanswered. Alderpeople have said they don’t have updates on the investigation or additional information on the accusations.
Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd), whose Little Village ward is in the 10th District’s jurisdiction, said he had no updates but is counting on the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to conduct a “holistic” and “expedited” investigation.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th), who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, didn’t respond to requests for comment on the matter.
The Little Village Community Council held a protest outside the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s West Town office Wednesday morning demanding transparency in the investigation and called on officials to release the names of accused officers, they said.
The Southwest Side group also attended a protest outside the 10th District station, 3315 W. Ogden Ave., last week, when organizers called on the city to move all migrants from police stations as soon as possible.
Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, said the group doesn’t have faith in the police oversight’s agency to conduct an effective investigation or enforce laws.
“Have they gone to other districts to talk to asylum seekers to see if this has happened in those districts? [COPA] said that the investigators are, but … we’ve talked to asylum seekers at other police stations and they said, ‘We haven’t spoken to anybody,'” Enriquez said.
Enriquez said the community should be more involved, especially in forming policies to ensure migrants aren’t abused or mistreated as people continue to sleep on police station floors.
Jennifer Rottner, director of news affairs at the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, said agency officials “engaged in a very productive conversation” with members of the Little Village Community Council, but had no updates on the matter.
“This is currently an active and ongoing investigation, and we have no additional details to provide at this time,” Rottner said.
Mary May, a spokesperson with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the city moved all remaining migrants out of the 10th District last week, but didn’t say where people were moved to.
Enriquez said the secrecy is suspicious.
“If we can’t speak to those asylum seekers just to see what in reality happened and we can’t get the insight of how were they being treated … Were they being manipulated?” Enriquez said.
And despite calls to move migrants from all police stations, that hasn’t happened. Volunteers said the situation is more confusing than ever, describing it as a “sh— show.”
Ald. Ruth Cruz (30th) said migrants are still living inside all police districts in her ward, and that the only police station that has had migrants completely moved out is the 10th District.
Another volunteer said 37 people are living at the Albany Park (17th) District, 4650 N. Pulaski Road, and 31 people are living at the Lincoln (20th) District, 5400 N. Lincoln Ave., as of Thursday.
“Some districts are so full that people are still sleeping outside because they just can’t fit inside anymore,” said the volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous.
Volunteers and migrants are frustrated that the city still hasn’t provided a clear plan or timeline for relocating people living at the stations, the volunteer said.
“We have people that have been there for more than a month now, like in District 20 since May. The problem that we’re having is that most of the families are moved much quicker, just because of their children sleeping on the floor of a police station,” the volunteer said.
Migrants who remain in police stations continue to live on the floors and outside the building while volunteers and police commanders try to accommodate them with air mattresses and supplies, the volunteer said.
“The other issue that we’re having is that we keep getting buses with people coming into Chicago and if the police station is already full some of them are going directly to a shelter once they arrive while others that have been waiting don’t,” the volunteer said.
“There’s no rhyme or reason why some people get to go and why some don’t,” they said. “It’s a sh— show, to be honest.”
For nearly a year, local leaders have struggled to come up with housing, resources and other critical needs for thousands of people and families coming to the city from Central and South America.
Since August, more than 10,500 migrants have come to Chicago.
People have come from several countries, but a majority are fleeing political and economic upheaval in Venezuela. Many of them were sent to Chicago on buses by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other border-state Republican governors. Some were given free plane tickets to the city by local groups at the U.S.-Mexico border.
About 4,500 people are staying in city-run temporary shelters. Hundreds more are staying in police stations, sleeping on crowded floors and relying on donations from neighbors while they wait for shelter space to become available.
With city services stretched thin, many neighbors, groups and churches have stepped up to provide migrants food, clothing, toiletries and even set them up in community-run shelters.