How an unjustified arrest exposed glaring failures in CPD’s response to unrest that followed George Floyd’s killing

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability found that officers may have included false or misleading information in hundreds of arrest reports during demonstrations at the end of May 2020.

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Protesters square off with Chicago police at Kinzie and State streets May 30, 2020, during a protest of George Floyd’s murder.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

An investigation into a brutal and unjustified arrest during George Floyd protests in Chicago two years ago has raised new questions about the Chicago Police Department’s response to the days of unrest and implicated a commander and two officers in the filing of a false report.

The officer who made the arrest, James Hunt, is accused of beating a woman who drove toward another officer on the night of May 30, 2020, in the first block of West Kinzie Street.

Hunt smashed out one of her windows, struck her in the legs with a baton and called her a “fat b——” while arresting her “without justification,” according to a letter from Chicago Police Supt. David Brown to the Chicago Police Board.

The letter, which seeks Hunt’s dismissal, was sent this month after the Civilian Office of Police Accountability finished its review of the arrest.

But the COPA report goes beyond that arrest and suggests officers may have included false or misleading information in hundreds of arrest reports during demonstrations at the end of May that year.

In the case of the woman who was beaten, then-Central District Cmdr. Joseph Alderden was listed as the arresting officer, not Hunt. COPA noted the arrest report included the wrong time, location, charge and narrative. It also misspelled Alderden’s name.

COPA said Alderden acknowledged he was not the arresting officer and believed someone higher up in the department told officers to falsely use his name on reports.

A detective, Krista Chasen, told COPA she would “copy and paste information her supervisors directed her to use for all the mass arrests,” whether or not they actually reflected what happened.

She told investigators that she attested to roughly 100 arrest reports at the Central District, adding that she “would have no idea if the report was false or misleading because she was not given any details.”

In the case of the woman beaten, Lt. Robert Kane, the district’s watch commander at the time, signed off on the probable cause for the arrest even though it was “demonstrably false,” COPA found.

The agency recommended that Chasen and Kane face anywhere from a 180-day suspension to dismissal.

COPA called for Alderden’s firing for failing to follow mass arrest procedures.

“Alderden expressed no remorse for the flagrant miscarriages of justice and systemic failures that occurred in his district and beyond,” COPA said in its report.

“He took no responsibility for his actions and instead deflected to his subordinates,” COPA wrote. “Indeed, he provided an email demonstrating he knew members had falsely identified him as the arresting officer in arrest reports, but instead of attempting to rectify those errors, he simply instructed his subordinates to ‘call him’ before they listed him on future reports.”

The city’s inspector general and the court-appointed monitor overseeing police reforms have both issued scathing reports on the police department’s response to the protests, with both singling out the system for making mass arrests. 

COPA’s report brings those problems into sharper focus and shows that many people taken into custody had “no information about who arrested them or why.”

In a March letter to COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten, Brown acknowledged his department was “woefully unprepared” for the large-scale protests and rioting after Floyd’s killing.

He agreed with the recommendation to fire Hunt, but pushed back hard on some of the other key findings.

Referring to Alderden as “one of the department’s most highly decorated officers,” Brown insisted he “played absolutely no role in the arrest … beyond having his misspelled name affixed to [the] arrest report by other department members.” 

Brown noted that Alderden, now a captain in the department’s alternate response unit, was blocks away when the arrest took place.

The superintendent argued that COPA “downplays and dismisses” Alderden’s claims that he repeatedly pushed officers to follow the rules.

“It seems COPA’s rationale or theory in sustaining this allegation is that someone of higher authority must be held to account, and they have landed on Captain Alderden,” Brown stated. “The evidence in this investigation points to one conclusion in regards to Captain Alderden, and that is the allegations should be unfounded.”

Brown called for 30-day suspensions for Chasen and Kane for their violations of mass arrest procedure.

Alderden received a 60-day suspension based on an agreement between Brown and COPA. Chasen and Kane were both given 45-day suspensions.

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