Lightfoot’s choice to lead COPA stalls amid controversy after report recommends suspension of officer killed months later | Chicago News

Andrea Kersten, acting chief of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom, July 21, 2021. (WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to lead the agency to investigate the misconduct of members of the Chicago Police Department did not move forward on Friday, even as she again apologized for posting a report recommending officer Ella French, killed in August, be disciplined for conduct during the failed raid on Anjanette Young’s home in February 2019.

Andrea Kersten, acting chief of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, also known as COPA, said again on Friday that she regrets the agency’s work has hurt French’s family and friends. Kersten said she particularly wanted French’s family to be made aware of the report’s findings before it was released to the media.

However, Kersten said it was wrong to suggest that COPA was recommending French be disciplined after she was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Englewood on Aug. 7.

Aldes. Silvana Tabares (23rd Ward) and Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th District) insisted on what she had done to demonstrate this regret, but neither indicated that he was satisfied with her response.

COPA completed its investigation into the February 2019 raid at Young’s home on April 27, sending a 163-page report detailing more than 100 instances of wrongdoing to Superintendent David Brown for review, Kersten said.

Brown “accepted all of our disciplinary findings and recommendations on July 26,” but the seven officers facing reprimands and suspensions and, in one case, termination were not notified until November 9. COPA officials released the report on November 10, in accordance with its rules. .

Kersten said she had no authority to alter this report after French’s death and before it was required to be published.

Under intense questioning from more conservative city council members, Kersten warned members of the Chicago City Council’s public safety committee that altering official reports documenting police misconduct could complicate reform efforts. of the Chicago Police Department, which has a decades-long history of failing to hold officers who do wrong to account.

The failure of Kersten’s nomination to move forward is a blow to Mayor Lori Lightfoot who predicted Kersten would ultimately be confirmed if she apologized. Kersten first apologized at the Chicago Police Board’s November meeting.

The mayor called the inclusion of the recommendation that French be disciplined “tone deaf” and “unnecessary”.

Lightfoot, who headed the Office of Professional Standards under former Mayor Richard M. Daley when he was tasked with investigating police misconduct, said Kersten was the most qualified candidate for the job.

Aldus. Jason Ervin (28th Ward), the chairman of the City Council Black Caucus, was the only committee member to support Kersten, saying the city council should be “very careful” when it comes to lobbying agencies. misconduct to change their findings.

“We can’t begin to say [COPA] not including … or excluding certain things” because of hurt feelings or “how we made someone look,” Ervin said.

Kersten has led COPA on an interim basis since May, when she replaced Sydney Roberts, who resigned after Lightfoot repeatedly criticized COPA for taking 16 months to investigate the raid on Young’s home. Video of the raid has sparked a political storm that Lightfoot has yet to quell.

If Kersten is confirmed by the Chicago City Council, she will be the last COPA Chief Administrator to be confirmed by the City Council.

Once the new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability is formed and launched, a council of Chicago residents will choose the head of COPA.

Aldes. Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward) and Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward) – who both opposed the creation of the commission – urged their colleagues to wait until this council is operational and let its new members decide whether to confirm Kersten at four – one year term.

Sposato burst into anger when Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward) announced he would not hold the vote as scheduled, saying it was clear Kersten’s nomination did not have enough votes to qualify for the entire Chicago City Council.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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