CHICAGO - The Chicago Police Department was woefully unprepared for the violence that erupted in the city last year after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, and some officers took steps to cover up their actions during the unrest, a watchdog agency said in a blistering report released Thursday.
Chicago’s Office of Inspector General pinned much of the blame on the police department’s "senior leadership," saying it failed front-line officers and the public for the response to disruptions in the days after Floyd’s death on May 29. Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, pleaded for air for several minutes while white officer Derek Chauvin, now charged with murder, pressed his knee on his neck.
The Chicago department’s response, was "marked almost without exception, by confusion and lack of coordination in the field, emanating from failures of intelligence assessment, major event planning, field communication and operation, administrative systems and, most significantly, leadership from CPD’s highest ranks," the office concluded.
Unrest lasted for days as peaceful protests devolved into clashes with police. Vandals smashed windows, set fires and caused extensive property damage, prompting the city to block roadways with garbage trucks and even raise drawbridges to prevent people from getting downtown. At least six people were shot, one fatally, and there were more than 1,500 arrests.
The 152-page report blamed the poor response on "strategic and tactical incoherence" from the top and alleged that Superintendent David Brown underestimated the problems that the anticipated protests might bring, Officers were often given no specific assignment when they arrived on the scene, in effect leaving them feeling as if superiors had left them to fend for themselves, the inspector general’s office wrote.
Some officers allegedly acted inappropriately, the report found, a particular concern for a police department long dogged by a reputation for misconduct and brutality. For example, according to the report, many officers either failed to wear or switch on their body cameras, and there was even evidence that some had "obscured their badge numbers and nameplates while deployed during the protests and unrest."
Such activities will have lasting effects, the report concluded.
"CPD and the City will be dealing with the negative repercussions of the shortcomings revealed here for some time," wrote Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. "Missing reports and videos may limit or preclude accountability for people who committed crimes and CPD members who committed misconduct."
In a statement, the police department did not dispute specific findings of the report but said it has conducted its own review of its actions.
"The results of this after-action review have since informed the Department on how to best respond to similar situations while protecting public safety and the rights of all individuals involved," the department said. "This includes changes that were implemented in areas that were highlighted for improvement. CPD will continually review procedures and strategies used in these large-scale responses to ensure accountability at every level."