Chicago mayor announces proposal to reform search warrant policies

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new policy changes to police search warrant raids. But some activists say her reform isn't going far enough. CBS Chicago investigative reporter David Savini joined CBSN to break down what the new changes are and how the raid of Anjanette Young's home pushed lawmakers toward reform.

Video Transcript

LANA ZAK: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new proposal to reform search warrant raids carried out by police. On Wednesday, the mayor promised transparency in all police investigations.

LORI LIGHTFOOT: Each of these reforms was crafted for the sole purpose of ensuring that the rights and the basic human dignity of all Chicagoans, no matter what the circumstances, are respected and protected and that the wrongs of the past are made right. This moment, however, is not the end. It's the beginning. And I also want to emphasize that two weeks ago I signed an executive order that requires that when a victim of a police incident comes forward, particularly circumstances like Miss Young, that that person must be given video, police reports, audio of any incident where they believe that they have been harmed by the Chicago Police Department. That is--

LANA ZAK: The new policies include banning nearly all no-knock warrants and requiring a deputy chief or higher to sign off on all search warrants. The city also plans to reform after action reviews when officers conduct wrongful search warrant raids. We want to warn viewers that the footage you are about to see may be disturbing.

Mayor Lightfoot faced pressure from city council members and reform activists to change the warrant policies following the reign of Anjanette Young's home in 2019. CBS Chicago obtained body camera footage from the botched raid. Young was naked when officers wrongfully stormed her apartment and handcuffed her. She is the latest victim in a pattern of wrongful raids that disproportionately impact Black and brown communities.

Joining me now for more is CBS Chicago investigative reporter Dave Savini. Dave has been following wrongful raids in Chicago for more than three years. He's the one who actually broke the story of Anjanette Young. And I'm so excited to have you here to talk about the changes that are being made partially as a result of your reporting. So David, is there any clarity on how Chicago officers might be held accountable if they violate these new search warrant rules?

DAVE SAVINI: Hi, Lana. It's really great to be talking about this on a national level right now, because it's been a real problem, not just here in Chicago, but in communities across the country. Wrong raids have been causing damage, irreparable damage on families across our country and in Chicago. And the new policy that Mayor Lightfoot is proposing, she's already proposed one a year ago after we've been doing this investigation for three years now.

They finally put a new policy in about 13 months ago. And they didn't follow that one. And so now they're talking about creating another one. And it does outline a lot of better accountability issues. But at the end of the day, if you don't discipline people or enforce discipline on the officers who don't follow the policies that you create-- which they weren't following the past policies-- well, there's no reason to follow the policies. And small things get bigger and bigger things become uncontrollable.

And you end up having situations like Anjanette Young's case, where they were supposed to independently review what the informant told them to verify the address, that they had the right place. And if they would have checked their own database, they would have seen that the man they were looking for was in the apartment right next door with an electronic monitoring bracelet around the ankle. And everyone knew where he was except for the Chicago Police team on that raid that night.

LANA ZAK: Yeah, that's part of your reporting that I think has just gut punched people, that they actually had the information about where he was. And in the longer reporting of some of your initial pieces, we saw how long it actually took for those officers to treat Miss Young with any semblance of humanity and giving her even something to put over her naked body as opposed to making her just stand there in that room.

You have extensive experience in covering this. So what are the most common violations that you've seen? And do you feel like these new rules are actually addressing the most problematic aspects of these police raids?

DAVE SAVINI: Well, the rules are important that they put in, that they're going to possibly put in now. But they had rules on the books that they weren't following. I'll talk about some of the new rules that they want to enforce. And that is the biggest thing that I see in the change that they're recommending now is that a deputy chief or hire will sign off on every warrant.

What has to happen before a warrant can be served is, there is an officer who gets a tip. If that officer gets a tip from an informant, whether it's a paid informant or a John Doe, oftentimes they give them money. And other times they give them a deal on some other sentence that they're working on. You're not supposed to trust an informant all by their word, because they lie. They don't always tell the truth. There's something in it for them.

And sometimes they're just not that dependable. They don't know exactly what apartment unit somebody was in, coming in and out of. They might be one off. You know, they're not the most trustworthy people in the world. So with that being said, now a deputy chief has to sign off what that officer who is trying to get the warrant-- they're called the affiant, the officer that's getting the warrant, the officer that goes before the judge. They're often less experienced, so in the past, a lieutenant or above had to sign off on that warrant before it went to the state's attorney to approve charges, before it went to the judge to approve the warrant.

Now it's two or three ranks above that now, three ranks. The deputy chief now has to sign off on all these warrants. So there's a higher level of supervision now when they go in for a warrant. They're also having to wear body cameras on every raid. Our series, "Unwarranted," that we've done over 70 reports now going back to 2018, really looked at how all of the breakdowns occur from the point that the warrant was signed off and they didn't check the informant's information, to the point where they suit up and put their body cameras on before they go in on a raid.

We found case after case where not everybody on the raid team actually put their body camera on. Some turned them on after the raid was over, or almost over. And some just forgot to turn them on at all. And then we had specialized units like the drug team and the gang team and the gun team. They were even issued body cameras. All 8,000 officers on the streets of Chicago were given body cameras about four years ago. But those teams-- the critical teams that were conducting the majority of the raids-- weren't even issued body cameras.

So now Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said that everyone is going to wear body cameras. Even the SWAT team will be wearing them on these raids. And so that's a big step in the right direction, because now at least you have that second eye that can be that element of truth that's in the room. And we caught a lot of problems on body cameras. In the raids that they did wear body cameras, Lana, we caught officers continuing to search after they were talking on body camera that they were in the wrong apartment, yet they continue to search innocent families' homes anyways.

And then we also caught them turning them off in the middle of a raid. We actually caught a team of officers interrogating three little kids without a parent present asking them, where are the drugs? Just tell us where the drugs are and we'll let you go. And these little kids are like, we don't even know where the drugs are. It was the wrong home. So the body cameras is also a big step in the right direction.

And there's going to be preplanning before these raids to take children in consideration, and people with disabilities, and elderly people, as well, to make sure that there isn't somebody that's vulnerable in the home. Can we conduct the raid at a time of the day around that schedule, maybe when the children are in school versus being home and in their pajamas getting ready for bed when they bust through the door?

LANA ZAK: I want to talk to you about that a bit more, David, because our team put up this graphic while you were talking, saying in 43% of those raids that happened in Chicago, no arrests were made at all, calling into question why this is happening so frequently. And you started to mention the psychological impacts of these raids, particularly on children who are in the homes. What can you tell us about the trauma that is actually left behind by an experience like this, particularly if it turns out that there was no reason for officers to be there in the first place?

DAVE SAVINI: OK. I'll talk about a couple of things right here based on that question-- data and the scars left on children and other people. First I'll start with the data. The data is only good as the data that the Chicago Police Department handed over to us. And I have to tell you, we fought years to get data. The first batch of raid data they turned over to us didn't make any sense. The wrong raids that we have been uncovering and knew the search warrant numbers of and had all these records on weren't even in the first batch of data they gave us.

This new warrant policy that the mayor is pitching includes language that they will now have to track every raid and have to keep track of every wrong raid. They never even kept track of wrong raids prior to our investigation. So they couldn't really give us good data. So when they handed us over a second batch of data after telling us they did track wrong raids two years ago, now they admitted that they actually don't track wrong raids and have no idea how many were wrong.

I can't trust any of the statistics that the Chicago Police Department has given our team because they often don't make any sense. So I think what they need to do is have a better tracking system. Require it. Did you find drugs? Did you find guns? Did you make an arrest? Was there property recovered? Was it the wrong home? And that information needs to go back to the original judge that signed the warrant so that judge knows the batting record, if you will, of that particular raid team or that particular affiant that brought that bad warrant before that judge.

And so you need to know how many-- just as much as you need to know. And they're going to start tracking informants, too, we're told-- or there's an attempt for that to make sure this is a good informant or a bad informant. If you give a bad tip, that informant can no longer be used. Same thing should probably go with the affiants. If the affiant is repeatedly bringing a bad raid, a bad warrant to a judge, they should be at least retrained and disciplined. Again, no discipline component. No tracking. That's supposed to change as far as the tracking. But the discipline is still up in the air.

Now let's talk about kids, children. Their brains are not-- the way a child processes a trauma like that will stay with them the rest of their life. Imagine you're sitting on the floor of your apartment building, your apartment unit in your building with your parents and you're watching your favorite TV show. Dad's in the kitchen cooking. And the raid team comes in and points high powered rifles at your face, or Anjanette Young, who's standing there naked, telling her to keep her hands in the air with a weapon right at her face. The trauma lasts forever.

LANA ZAK: Dave Salvini, thank you so much for your powerful reporting and for continuing to bring light to these issues. Appreciate it.