CHICAGO — A probe into allegations of officers sexually engaging with migrants sheltering at two police stations has been closed without officials finding any evidence of wrongdoing.
Investigators with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability could not track down any victims or direct witnesses, according to a closing report released by the police watchdog Friday.
“At this time, there is not sufficient objective verifiable information of sexual misconduct,” an agency spokesperson said.
Investigators canvassed migrant shelters and did not speak to anyone with information about allegations of officers having sexual contact with migrants at police stations, according to the report. It was alleged that an officer in the Ogden (10th) District, 3315 W. Ogden Ave., raped and impregnated an underage female migrant.
That allegation, widely circulated in media reports, had caused widespread outrage and condemnation from political leaders and community organizers. The 10th and 19th District police stations in question were momentarily cleared of migrants in the immediate backlash.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s investigation started July 6 and closed less than three months later.
Police detectives are not looking into the matter outside of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s investigation, a police spokesperson said.
“Without a victim or witness, the Chicago Police Department is unable to move forward with a criminal investigation,” the police spokesperson said
Addressing the media Friday afternoon, Andrea Kersten, COPA’s chief administrator, said investigators faced “profound challenges” finding victims of the alleged crimes. Gaining information from migrants, many wary of speaking with city officials while navigating vulnerable situations as new arrivals to Chicago, was also a challenge, Kersten said.
Kersten added a police officer directly identified in the allegations, as well as other officers connected to the two police stations, gave “compelled interviews” with their union representatives present. “None of these individuals had any direct knowledge related to this complaint,” the probe’s closing report said.
Tensions between the police watchdog agency and the Fraternal Order of Police boiled throughout the investigation, with police union officials decrying that officers were “dragged through the mud” over rumors.
In response, Kersten said “it would have been derelict in our duty to not investigate this case.
“We take matters like this seriously and we run down all available leads in order to do the job that is required of us,” she said.
Kersten said her office immediately told the Chicago Police Department about the allegations the agency received, which included a screenshot passed on to them by an employee at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications on July 6. The screenshot accused a named officer of impregnating a 17-year-old migrant.
The origin of the screenshot “remains unknown,” the report said. But local media outlets have reported a text message had been circulating among police officers and other city employees before reaching investigators. It was also alleged a 10th District police leader, speaking at roll call shortly after, “instructed officers not to have sex with migrants,” according to the report.
In July, COPA officials also interviewed a person connected to the officer named in the screenshot, asking if she had been the source of a complaint at the 10th District police station. She denied she was, according to the report.
Investigators also received a tip from a volunteer helping migrants, who said she had been told about an “inappropriate relationship between an officer and a female migrant” and that “pregnancy tests were needed” at the Town Hall (19th) District, 850 W. Addison St., in Lakeview, according to the report.
A “project manager” told investigators she spoke to one migrant who claimed to observe an unknown migrant woman try to report to the 19th District desk that “an officer touched her inappropriately” while they stayed there, according to the report.
Those allegations were not confirmed or denied after further interviews, according to the report.
“This lack of information and evidence has prevented COPA from determining whether misconduct has occurred,” the report concluded. “Should new, material information become available, COPA has the authority to re-open this investigation.”
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