Cop union wants to know why outside expert hired in LeGrier, Jones shootings

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Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times file photo

The Fraternal Order of Police wants to know why a Boston police lieutenant was paid more than $17,000 to review the police shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, but the Civilian Office of Police Accountability never referenced those findings in ruling the shooting unjustified.

FOP President Kevin Graham has already slammed COPA — and demanded a “clarification” on use-of-force policies — for ruling Officer Robert Rialmo’s December, 2015 shooting of LeGrier and Jones unjustified.

Now, the union is questioning why COPA hired Boston Police Lt. Robert Harrington to review the shooting, but there was no mention of his conclusions in COPA’s final report on the fatal shooting.

The FOP only learned that Harrington had been hired as an “outside expert” after filing a Freedom of Information request. The records show that COPA paid Harrington through the law firm of McGuire Woods LLP.

Harrington met with COPA personnel several times in April and May of 2016, mostly to “review case materials,” the documents show.

“I want to know about the report that he wrote and what’s in it. This is serious business. You’re making serious accusations about an officer and about his career. If we give a Freedom of Information request, we expect to get all the information that we’re entitled to,” Graham said Wednesday.

Graham was asked whether he suspects Harrington’s conclusions were omitted from COPA’s report because he didn’t agree with the decision to rule the shooting “unjustified.”

“That has crossed our minds. But we don’t know what the report says and, until we do, we can’t make a determination on that,” he said.

“One of the things we also want to know is why is the name of the investigator blacked out. I’ve never seen that before. . . . If this is supposed to be an open, fair and objective report, why are those questions coming up?”

COPA spokesperson Mia Sissac said she is not at liberty to discuss anything about the investigation while Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is weighing COPA’s recommendation that Rialmo be fired.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last summer that COPA had issued a request-for-qualifications from “subject matter experts” with experience investigating and reviewing six different categories of cases: use of force; testing and analysis of ballistic evidence; crime scene reconstruction; forensic analysis of digital evidence; forensic medicine, and motor vehicle accident reconstruction.

Sissac argued then that “subject matter experts” were pivotal to restoring public confidence shattered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and by the U.S. Justice Department’s portrayal of Chicago Police officers as poorly trained and seldom punished for excessive force and civil rights abuses.

The union representing rank-and-file Chicago Police officers is under new and more outspoken leadership determined to defend officers better and combat what it calls an “anti-police” mentality in the news media, particularly when it comes to wrongful conviction claims.

Earlier this month, Graham asked Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate COPA citing “compelling evidence” the oversight agency is leaking confidential information to the detriment of its members.

To support its claim of “compelling evidence of leaks,” Graham cited a Chicago Tribune story about COPA’s investigation of a December bar fight involving Rialmo. That bar fight and the investigation it triggered should have remained confidential, Graham said.

The union president further noted that the now-abolished Independent Police Review Authority, which preceded COPA, was accused of similar leaks in an attempt to “engineer public opinion” against police officers.

Sissac said then she couldn’t “speak to prior alleged leaks” by IPRA, even though she worked there.

But she insisted that the story about the bar fight involving Rialmo was released by COPA in response to a Freedom of Information request to the oversight agency and to the Chicago Police Department.

“Any accusation that COPA leaked information is false,” Sissac wrote in an email.

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