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University of Chicago Police No Longer Allowed to Monitor Its Own Ranks

By Sam Cholke | November 3, 2014 5:35am
 The University of Chicago has hired a new adminstrator to take over investigating complaints against university police officers.
The University of Chicago has hired a new adminstrator to take over investigating complaints against university police officers.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago Police Department is taking the role of policing the rank and file out of the hands of officers.

A new director of professional accountability will start on Monday and take over the process of investigating complaints against the 100 officers on the private force, according to Gloria Graham, assistant chief of the university police.

If residents have a problem with a university officer, they must now take that complaint to a uniformed officer who will investigate whether his colleagues stepped out of line.

The current process has faced criticism repeatedly in the past as being too intimidating for people making complaints.

“It does show the university recognizes that there is a problem, but it is a far cry from what real accountability would look like,” said Emma LaBounty, a student organizer with the group Coalition for Equitable Policing.

Last year, LaBounty served on the Independent review committee, a provost-appointed board charged with monitoring the complaint process, and reviewed firsthand the confidential investigations officers conducted when a complaint was made. She said she felt the investigating officer was frequently too light when questioning an officer and overly critical when interviewing the complainant.

LaBounty and other students from Coalition from Equitable Policing staged a protest on Friday on campus, pushing the university to address accusations of racial profiling by officers and a lack of transparency from the private force.

Graham denied the police department engages in racial profiling.

“As a department, we often and openly discuss our policing strategies to ensure our officers are not engaging deliberately or inadvertently in bias-based policing," she said.

Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman from the university, said the more watchful eye by university administrators has been in the works for a year.

She said the new accountability position will still report to university Chief of Police Marlon Lynch, but will not be a uniformed officer and will not be an employee of the police department.

The job has been filled, but Coleman declined to specify by whom.

The university force is a fully sanctioned police force with all the rights of the Chicago Police Department, including the ability to detain suspects and send officers undercover.

The force has faced criticism because it is not subject to many of the laws that force municipal and state police forces to publicly release information on complaints against officers, data on whom officers are choosing to stop and what sort of calls officers are responding to.

The university police releases a daily incident report on its website at incidentreports.uchicago.edu.

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