Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) intakes all allegations of misconduct, whether generated externally by the public, or internally by Police Department personnel. While COPA registers all complaints, not all complaints are handled by COPA. By City ordinance and Department regulation, when an allegation involves excessive force, domestic violence, coercion though violence, or verbal bias-based abuse, COPA conducts the investigation into the allegation and recommends the result. All other allegations are referred to the Internal Affairs Division for appropriate resolution.
Once a complaint is received, it is assigned a Complaint Log Number. If the complaint is within COPA’s jurisdiction, COPA will retain it and conduct an investigation. All other complaints are referred to the Chicago Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division for resolution. COPA will also send a letter to you acknowledging the complaint within five to seven working days.
Complaints received by the Internal Affairs Division, may be forwarded to an employee’s immediate supervisor. The Internal Affairs Division personnel investigate allegations of misconduct that generally carry more serious consequences for the employee, the department, or community confidence in the police. Immediate supervisors investigate complaints with less serious consequences.
An investigator is assigned to conduct a comprehensive investigation of each complaint. It is his or her responsibility to contact the complainant(s) and witness(es) to obtain any verbal and/or written statements. The investigator will obtain any relevant evidence, including, but not limited to police and medical reports, photographs, videotapes, audiotapes, and forensic evidence. The investigator will also question the accused member and any Police Department member who may have knowledge of the alleged misconduct.
An allegation that a Chicago Police Officer committed misconduct is a serious event for the person alleging misconduct and the officer. Both deserve a thorough, fair and timely investigation of the allegation.
It is essential that we have the complete cooperation of complainant and witnesses both civilian and sworn, so that the investigation may be completed in a thorough and timely manner. Complainants and witnesses should share with the investigator as much information as possible about the date, time, place, people involved, other witnesses, and the nature of the incident.
Each complaint will receive one of four possible findings:
- Sustained – The allegation was supported by sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action. Recommendations of disciplinary action may range from violation noted to separation from the Department.
- Not Sustained – The allegation is not supported by sufficient evidence which could be used to prove or disprove the allegation.
- Unfounded – The complaint was not based on facts as shown by the investigation, or the reported incident did not occur.
- Exonerated – The incident occurred, but the action taken by the officer(s) was deemed lawful and proper.