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Police union says COPA isn’t qualified to investigate officer shootings

Sun-Times file photo

The union representing Chicago police officers says the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) is violating state law by investigating fatal officer-involved shootings, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The officer union — Fraternal Order of Police Lodge no. 7 — is seeking an injunction against the city to ensure that COPA investigators are state-qualified law enforcement officers, which the lawsuit claims they are not.

COPA is designated to lead investigations into fatal encounters with Chicago police.

The lawsuit alleges that COPA’s lead investigators in those encounters are not trained “law enforcement officers,” in violation of the Illinois Police and Community Relations Improvement Act.

The union claims that either COPA is the wrong agency to investigate fatal encounters with police, or that the lead homicide investigators at COPA become state-certified law enforcement officers.

The union filed a similar lawsuit in 2016, alleging that COPA’s predecessor, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), failed to meet state requirements to investigate officer-involved shootings.

That lawsuit also claimed that lead investigators were not officially trained law enforcement officers. It also claimed that the IPRA was not sufficiently district from the Chicago Police Department to conduct independent reviews. That lawsuit was dismissed by a Cook County judge the next year, according to court records.

The union’s new lawsuit also claims the Chicago Police Department has kept certain body-camera videos beyond the 90 day limit when they must be destroyed. Body-camera footage not “flagged” as capturing a dangerous encounter or non-traffic related arrest is by law required to be deleted in that time period, the lawsuit states.

A request for comment from COPA was not returned Friday.