Officials say 8 Chicago officers were stripped of their powers following hundreds of complaints about police conduct during summer protests

Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

More than 500 complaints have been filed against Chicago police officers since late May on allegations that they mistreated protesters during the demonstrations that followed the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, officials said, and eight have been stripped of their police powers.

The protest-related complaints were discussed Tuesday by Sydney Roberts, who heads Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, during the final day of budget talks for all city agencies before the City Council.

Chicago’s protest-related complaints began to roll in four days after Floyd’s May 25 death at the hands of police, officials said. His death sparked outrage throughout the country, leading to protests and unrest in several cities, Chicago included, and touched off a renewed national conversation about U.S. law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans.

In Chicago, the protest-related complaints became so voluminous that COPA in June formed a specialized team of investigators to respond to them, officials said.

From May 29 through the end of October, there were 520 protest-related complaints, according to COPA. The Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs has handled 288 of them, while COPA has handled the remaining 232.

Details of the conduct that led to the officers being stripped of their powers were not immediately available. Five complaints referred to the city’s inspector general’s office and five more to state or federal law enforcement, according to COPA.

Both agencies handle the most serious misconduct allegations against Chicago cops. COPA generally handles investigations related to allegations of excessive force.

Some officers involved in the demonstrations were accused of verbally abusing protesters, denying them access to attorneys, carrying out improper searches and other allegations.

The troubled Police Department is operating under a consent decree, a federal court order that requires extensive changes to the way officers treat people. In early June, the former federal prosecutor tasked with monitoring the department’s progress, Maggie Hickey, said she would investigate complaints that police had abused protesters. She has yet to deliver her findings.

Hickey held listening sessions over two days in August, and heard activists complain that police had beaten and insulted peaceful protesters.

Most of the protest-related complaints arose from demonstrations during the last weekend of May and early June, according to COPA, when the city also saw widespread looting and other unrest throughout Chicago.

Other complaints were tied to a protest in mid-July at the site of a Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park, as well as a demonstration in mid-August in the Loop, according to COPA’s data.

After the July protest, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said dozens of cops were injured during clashes with the crowd. But activists claimed the officers were the ones being overly aggressive, including when one officer was captured on video allegedly punching 18-year-old activist Miracle Boyd in the face.


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