12/12/2007

Ill. prosecutors don't want police investigating own shootings

By Eric Herman and Frank Main
The Chicago Sun-Times

COOK COUNTY, Ill. Cops shouldn't investigate their own in police shootings, a top Cook County prosecutor said Tuesday.

First Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan said he and State's Attorney Richard Devine are suggesting the creation of "shoot teams" responsible only for investigating police-involved shootings.

The teams would report directly to the new Independent Police Review Authority and not the Chicago Police superintendent.

"We both Dick Devine and I have advocated that police shootings should not be investigated by their own department," Milan said.

Milan, running to replace the retiring Devine, said most shootings don't involve misconduct, but the move would help police "avoid any appearance of impropriety." He said he and Devine discussed their proposal with police officials over the summer and fall.

The head of the police review agency, Ilana Rosenzweig, said Tuesday that while her investigative staff includes "shooting specialists," she was open to any ideas that would enhance the process.

Newly appointed police Supt. Jody Weis will have to decide if the department wants to drop the current practice of having detectives investigate police shootings. He is not speaking to reporters until he takes office next month.

"It would be premature to make any final decisions until the recommendations have been presented and collectively reviewed by the new superintendent, IPRA and the state's attorney's office," police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

CURRENT PROCESS CRITICIZED

On Nov. 18, the Sun-Times published a report raising questions about the way police shootings are investigated.

Thomas Smith, former chief investigator for the Office of Professional Standards from 1998 to 2002, was quoted as saying the system is designed to "protect the officer." OPS, now named the Independent Police Review Authority, investigates police shootings and excessive force claims.

In an interview last month, Smith said he recommended the department form a team of investigators dedicated to police shootings, but the idea was "kiboshed." He also said detectives were sometimes reluctant to order Breathalyzer tests for off-duty officers involved in barroom shootings.

On Monday, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) cited the Sun-Times' story when he and Ald. Isaac "Ike" Carothers (29th) proposed drug-and-alcohol testing for Chicago Police officers who discharge their weapons on duty or off-duty.

Milan also is proposing a "cool down period" for officers to receive counseling before they're interviewed about a shooting.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Sun Times

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