It is one of the top accountability measures passed as part of the new contract between the city of Chicago and the Chicago police union Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The contract sailed through City Council on Aug. 14 by a 40–8 vote.
Under the new contract, if the preliminary investigation of an anonymous complaint finds objective evidence and gets certified, then a full-fledged investigation starts, which could lead to one of four findings: sustained, not sustained, exonerated, or unfounded.
Disciplinary actions against officers will only be recommended if the finding is “sustained.” Such findings account for about 38 percent of all investigations concluded between 2016 and 2020 by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), according to the annual report.
In 2020, COPA—the main investigative body of complaints against police in Chicago—recorded 3,504 complaints against officers, a 45 percent increase over 2016. Half of the complaints in 2020 are about improper search or seizure; 25 percent are about excessive force.
As a disciplinary protection in the new contract, police officers will have the right to request arbitration before any anonymous complaints against them turn into a full investigation. If the arbitrator decides a complaint lacks objective evidence, the case is closed and erased from the officer’s record.
Prior to the new contract, anonymous complaints were only permitted for criminal, secondary employment, and medical role abuse allegations.
In total, an unprecedented number of 36 accountability measures are included in the new contract. “Never in the city of Chicago has that happened before,” said James Franczak, a private attorney who represented the city in the contract negotiations, at the Sept. 7 Workforce Development Committee hearing.
On the financial side, the new contract affords officers an incremental pay raise totaling 20 percent over eight years, including a 10.5 percent retroactive pay raise between July 2017 to December 2021, and another 9.5 percent raise between 2022 and 2025.
For patrol police officers, those who have been on the job for more than a year, annual pay increases to $76,124 in 2021; for those who have been on the job for over 25 years, annual pay increases to $106,571 in 2021. Chicago patrol officers, numbering about 9,000, are the backbone of FOP.
The total retroactive pay raise through the end of 2021 costs Chicago taxpayers around $377 million, according to Rose Tibayan, director of public affairs at the Office and Budget and Management, in an email to The Epoch Times. The total pay raise in 2022 costs around $165 million.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the police union FOP board reached a tentative contract agreement in July, almost four years after the last contract expired on June 30, 2017, under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
A major sticking point had been the city wanting to strip away more disciplinary protections in exchange for a raise in pay, according to Chicago FOP President John Catanzara in a previous interview.