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Researcher Named New Watchdog Overseeing Police Misconduct Probes

By Heather Cherone | April 6, 2017 4:15pm | Updated on April 7, 2017 11:34am
 Laura Kunard is Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's pick to lead a new office designed to scrutinize police misconduct.
Laura Kunard is Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's pick to lead a new office designed to scrutinize police misconduct.
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CHICAGO — A research scientist who helped lead the nationwide effort to reform policing during the Obama Administration was named Thursday to oversee investigations of police misconduct in Chicago.

Laura Kunard, a senior research scientist for justice programs for CNA, a non-profit research organization in Arlington, Virginia, was picked by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson to be Chicago's first deputy inspector general for public safety.

If confirmed by the City Council, Kunard will be paid $137,052 a year to oversee a 25-employee, $1.8 million unit in Ferguson's office charged with scrutinizing police misconduct investigations and the discipline imposed on officers.

“Laura Kunard has spent her career working around the country on the implementation of reforms to professionalize policing and rebuild trust between communities and police," Ferguson said.

With Kunard leading, "and through accountability and transparency, our office will promote best practices in the Chicago Police Department to foster the professionalism and trust needed to create productive partnerships with the communities it serves,” Ferguson said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said he remains "committed to making reforms that will strengthen trust between our Police Department and our residents, and this is the next step in those efforts."

"We are confident Kunard will serve the people of Chicago well in this new role," the statement said.

Kunard was part of the team at CNA picked by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to help 15 police departments across the nation implement the findings of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The new Chicago unit will also be charged with analyzing "policing and police accountability practices and procedures” and provide “robust public reporting” of its own findings, Ferguson has said.

The new position was created when the City Council endorsed Emanuel's effort to disband the Independent Police Review Authority and replace it with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in the wake of the outcry prompted by the release of a dashcam video showing a police officer fatally shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

The new agency must be up and running by the end of September. City leaders have vowed that the new agency will investigate allegations of excessive force and misconduct by police officers more thoroughly and faster.

Before joining CNA, Kunard served as the director of Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois. She was also the founding director of the Institute for Public Safety and Social Justice at Adler University in Chicago, where she researched police interactions with people with mental illness and restorative justice practices.

A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Illinois-Chicago, Kunard also serves on the Illinois Department of Corrections Advisory Board.

A federal investigation completed just days before President Barack Obama left office found Chicago's police force routinely violated the civil rights of residents by using excessive force caused by poor training and nonexistent supervision.


That report found that police misconduct investigations were "glacially slow and staffed by overworked and under trained investigators who often fail to obtain basic witness statements and evidence," said Vanita Gupta, who led the the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

Officers are "too rarely held accountable for misconduct and discipline is unpredictable and ineffective," Gupta said.

Emanuel has vowed to reform the department — and he is likely to be left on his own by Trump Administration to do so.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the report was "pretty anecdotal, and not so scientifically based."

Sessions has long been a critic of consent decrees. In 2008, the then-senator called consent decrees "dangerous" and said they "constitute an end run around the democratic process.