Over 100 Chicago police officials kept their jobs after making false statements, despite department’s ‘you lie, you die’ rule

More than 100 current and former Chicago police officials were allowed to stay on the job after making false statements, despite a rule where dismissal is considered the “appropriate disciplinary penalty,” the city’s watchdog reported Thursday.

When Lori Lightfoot was on the Chicago Police Board, she called Rule 14 the “you lie, you die” rule.

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But the Office of Inspector General found that the regulation is not being consistently enforced, undermining the department’s integrity.

“By employing members with histories of Rule 14 violations, CPD risks undermining its core law enforcement function by potentially compromising otherwise successful criminal convictions, eroding public trust and violating its constitutional and legal obligations,” the office warned in a report.

“Given the importance of truthfulness and credibility in police work, CPD, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the police board should make changes to ensure Rule 14 violations are consistently considered, disciplined and accurately recorded,” it added.

As of November, the department employed or had recently employed at least 110 members who violated the rule, including five who had been the subject of two disciplinary investigations that found they had made false written or oral statements.

Some were assigned to specialized units, like an FBI task force, while others worked as detectives and had been promoted even after officials ruled they had lied or made a material omission, according to the report.

The inspector general’s office called on officials to make a host of changes and to more stringently enforce the rule, criticizing “structural failures” within the city’s byzantine police accountability system and gaps in policies and practices that “contribute to underenforcement of Rule 14.”

The watchdog recommended that COPA and the police department’s internal affairs bureau should routinely recommend dismissal for such violations, that the police department should “consistently separate” members that have violated the rule, and that the police board should uphold any firings.

The police department should also ensure that officials who have broken the rule aren’t tasked with writing reports or testifying in court, the inspector general’s office said, adding that prosecutors should promptly be informed of any new violations.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office keeps lists of officers who are barred from testifying in court because they’ve committed misconduct that calls into question their credibility, like making false statements.

Earlier this week, the Triibe reported that 200 current and former Chicago cops are included on those lists.

But the police department’s general counsel told the inspector general that the department doesn’t keep track of the records that are handed over in response to prosecutors’ requests for employees’ disciplinary records.

That means the police department can’t “confirm or verify that the department has met its obligations to inform [the state’s attorney’s office] or any other requestor about a member’s Rule 14 history,” the inspector general’s office concluded.

The report highlights two cases in which department members took the stand after violating the rule.

One had lied about making derogatory remarks to a member of the public, yet was the prosecution’s sole witness in a drug case. An appellate court ultimately found that arrest reports and preliminary hearing testimony “used to rehabilitate the member’s credibility were inadmissible,” reversing the conviction and the defendant’s seven-year sentence and ordering a new trial.

Another department member was found to have made false statements twice, lying about being at a district station when they were off-duty and filing a false criminal report claiming their signature was forged on a car lease that had defaulted. The official was subsequently called to testify in at least two criminal cases, both of which resulted in convictions.

It’s unclear whether the department members’ Rule 14 violations were disclosed, the inspector general’s office said.

A police spokesperson said the department has “taken the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations under consideration and have already made progress to complete and implement several of the recommendations.”

The department said internal affairs investigators would continue to recommend dismissal to the superintendent in cases involving Rule 14 violations, according to responses to the inspector general’s recommendations included in the report. 

But the department rebuffed a call to “consistently separate members” who broke the rule because it doesn’t consider processes beyond its control, like a grievance procedure bound by collective bargaining agreements and police board proceedings.

The department also agreed to maintain records of all members who have violated Rule 14, and to implement a “periodic review” to assess whether they’re assigned to positions that require them to write reports or testify in court. Additionally, police officials committed to implementing “an ongoing notification system” to alert prosecutors of violations and to train investigators on recognizing them. 

“Chicago Police Department members are held to the highest standards,” the spokesperson said. “Our sworn and civilian members are expected to act with integrity as we work to build and maintain credibility and trust among the communities we serve.”

Meanwhile, the other agencies targeted in the report criticized some of the findings and rebuffed the inspector general’s recommendations.

In a letter attached to the report, Police Board officials noted that 21 of the 23 department members who have been found guilty of violating Rule 14 since 2018 have faced dismissal. They said the board can’t broadly commit to uphold recommendations to fire officers because it must legally “base its decisions on the evidence and legal authority made part of the record at the hearing on the charges.”

In her own letter, COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten said the oversight body “generally agrees” with the recommendation to recommend firing for police officials who violated Rule 14. But she noted that COPA’s actions are bound by union contracts and “must necessarily consider whether there is sufficient cause to discharge an officer in each case.”

In response to recommendations to explicitly instruct investigators to look for Rule 14 violations and to create a mechanism to confirm whether potential violations are being assessed, Kersten said these steps are already being taken.

“COPA is firm in its stance that officers found to have willfully lied in an official report or statement must be held accountable,” Kersten said in a statement. “These actions not only negatively impact the department’s reform efforts but can also undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.” 


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