Chicago’s top cop ends training agreement with Texas firm with ties to ex-police superintendent

Professional Law Enforcement Training has been paid more than $1.3 million and is owned by a colleague of former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown.

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Former Chicago Police Department Chief of Operations Fred Waller speaks during a news conference in River West after Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson introduced him as interim superintendent, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Former Chicago Police Department Chief of Operations Fred Waller speaks during a news conference in River West after Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson introduced him as interim superintendent May 3.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago’s acting top cop is ending the department’s relationship with a Texas firm that has been paid more than $1.3 million to train officers and is owned by a colleague of the city’s former police superintendent.

The firm, Professional Law Enforcement Training, is led by Byron Boston, who served in the Dallas Police Department with Fred Waller’s predecessor, David Brown.

“I have been made aware of CPD’s training agreement with PLET and the significant cost associated with it,” Waller wrote in a terse email Friday to Tina Skahill, the police department’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, who played an influential role in Brown’s administration.

“Today, please send a letter to PLET notifying them that CPD will no longer need their services as of June 1, 2023,” Waller added in the message obtained by the Sun-Times through a public records request.

A spokesperson for the department acknowledged the directive is being acted on.

A “compensation agreement” with PLET was signed by Brown and Boston in February 2021, according to records obtained by the Sun-Times. Their signatures are redacted, but their titles are included in the document.

Under the agreement, on PLET letterhead, the company was to receive $16,500 a month for a year to conduct training broadly focused on drug investigations and operations, firearm trafficking, undercover operations and street gang investigations.

The training was to be conducted over three two-day sessions each month.

In addition to that work, totaling $198,000, the police department had the option to pay $4,950 for each additional training session, according to the agreement.

The agreement was covered using forfeiture proceeds, or money and other assets seized in connection to criminal investigations, according to a law enforcement source.

PLET has received more than $1.1 million in other payments dating to April 2022, according to the city’s compensation portal, which notes that some checks have gone uncashed. Those payments relate to another agreement to help provide 40 hours of yearly training to existing officers, the source said.

The largest payments listed in the portal — for $278,250, $108,450 and $247,650 — were made between Feb. 23 and May 10 of this year.

Brown announced he was stepping down as superintendent on March 1, a day after the defeat of his biggest backer, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. He stuck around until March 16, and then took a job at a personal injury law firm in Texas.

Brown and Boston didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Training is at the heart of the federal consent decree mandating sweeping police reforms in the wake of the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

A police spokesperson acknowledged it’s “vitally important as we work to equip our officers with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs fairly, effectively and constitutionally.”

“To meet our consent decree obligations, and to ensure our officers received their mandatory 40 hours of in-service training, the department utilizes various training vendors,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to review training resources and make adjustments as appropriate, while still meeting training requirements.”

The latest consent decree progress report, issued last December, warned that deep staffing and personnel issues continued to hinder the department’s progress.

The issue was notably at the center of Brown’s decision to fire his former reform chief, Robert Boik, who was axed in August after criticizing Brown’s decision to move nearly 50 officers from Boik’s office to the Bureau of Patrol.

Boik was quickly replaced by Skahill, the former chief of the Bureau of Internal Affairs who became a close ally to Brown after she returned to the department as a civilian employee. She has told colleagues she is applying for superintendent.

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