CITY HALL — The Independent Police Review Authority fielded 1,300 new complaints against police officers over the last three months, actually down from year-to-year, but open investigations rose as staff abandoned the embattled agency, according to a quarterly report released Thursday.
The quarterly IPRA report for April through June reported 1,292 new complaints against officers, an increase of 10.3 percent from the first quarter, but that was down year-to-year compared with the second quarter of both 2014 and 2015.
The report did not speculate on the cause of the decline, stating: "The factors contributing to the steady decline in complaints are unclear."
More troubling was that the number of open cases rose 20 percent from the end of March to the end of June, to 919.
Of those, 380 or 41 percent concerned alleged use of excessive force, 139 concerned Tasers or pepper spray, up from 47 just three months before, 97 concerned domestic altercations, a level amount from the last report, and 66 concerned officer-involved shootings.
The report explained that charges of excessive force, the bulk of open investigations, "are complex and often require significant analysis and investigative work."
Yet it added that staff had been left with the findings by the Police Accountability Task Force that IPRA should be replaced by a civilian oversight agency, and was at 75 percent of capacity.
"Because we expect to lose more staff members in the coming months due to the agency transition, the administrative staff expects that this rise in pending investigations will continue through the balance of 2016," the report added.
IPRA handles all complaints of police misconduct, including excessive force, domestic violence, coercion and bias-based verbal abuse, as well as all police shootings.
Of the new complaints fielded in the second quarter, 963 were referred to the Police Department's Bureau of Internal Affairs, and 329 were retained by IPRA, with 10 referred to the Cook County state's attorney and one to the FBI.
The Harrison District drew the most complaints, 109, with one officer accused of four violations, the most of any one cop in the city.
The Gresham District logged 86 complaints, Wentworth 79 and Chicago Lawn 75. The Shakespeare District had the fewest complaints at 19.
Three officers citywide drew three accusations.
IPRA closed 162 investigations in the quarter, down 58 percent from a year ago, but that was attributed to the demands of Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley to emphasize quality over quantity.
"The new administration has introduced new policies and procedures intended to improve the quality and timeliness of the investigative process," the report stated. "The focus for the first half of 2016 has been on quality improvements."
Cases sustained against police doubled to 38 percent from 19.6 percent a year ago, and compared with 15.4 percent in the first quarter. Almost half of all closed cases, 48 percent, were not sustained, with 12 percent ruled unfounded and 2 percent resulting in exoneration.
The report also said that IPRA was preparing another report by the end of the month, in response to a recent findings from the Office of the Inspector General making three specific charges: that IPRA reports on use of force were "inaccurate and incomplete" prior to 2015; that “IPRA did not follow best practices for use-of-force reporting"; and that “IPRA’s public reporting provided insufficient contextual detail.”
It also revealed two advisory letters Fairley had sent the Department.
The first asked that "the superintendent consider diversity training for the command staff at a particular district where a concerning incident involving racial sensitivity had occurred."
The second recommended the Department "examine policies regarding the treatment of detainees to ensure there is sufficient direction on how lockup personnel should handle passive resisters."
Those letters are available on the IPRA website.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: