Internal investigation of botched police raid stymied by mayor’s launch of parallel probe, former inspector general says
Ferguson said his investigators interviewed “almost three dozen people” and reviewed “tens of thousands of pages of emails and other government records.” But with so much information kept from him, he said, he couldn’t recommend any disciplinary action.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to hire a private law firm to investigate the police raid on the home of Anjanette Young — and use attorney-client privilege to conceal details of that probe — stymied efforts by the inspector general’s office to find out what happened, Joe Ferguson, the city’s now-retired inspector general, said Tuesday.
Before ending his 12-year run as Chicago’s top watchdog on Friday, Ferguson delivered a 163-page report on the botched raid on the wrong home that humiliated Young. The social worker was left handcuffed and naked for 40 minutes in a room full of male police officers.
Ferguson said he did the best he could under the circumstances. His investigators interviewed “almost three dozen people” and reviewed “tens of thousands of pages of emails and other government records.”
But he was unable to recommend disciplinary action against any city employees. That’s because Lightfoot asked former federal judge Ann Claire Williams and her Jones Day law firm to launch a “simultaneous” investigation that included interviews with 20 of those same city employees. Lightfoot’s administration then claimed “attorney-client privilege” to shield that information from him, Ferguson said.
“What that means is there are other statements that constitute possible evidence that, maybe is exculpatory, maybe is aggravating. But you can’t make a responsible determination about disciplinary findings when you know, in fact, that there is evidence other than what you’re able to collect yourself,” Ferguson said.
“And so we characterize what we believe to be indicated by the evidence we gather. But, we say affirmatively the mayor’s inter-position of an outside law firm makes it impossible for us to responsibly draw a final bottom-line conclusion about whether or not there were full-blown violations because the administration claimed attorney-client privilege and would not share that separately-gained evidence.”
Lightfoot has been under fire for her changing story about what she knew and when she knew it about the botched raid.
A sobbing Young was captured on bodycam video telling officers more than 40 times that they had the wrong house; eventually, one officer finally gave her a blanket to cover up.
Lightfoot has met with Young and personally apologized to her for having been “denied her basic dignity as a human being.”
The mayor initially insisted she knew nothing about the raid until WBBM-TV (Channel 2) aired the video in December.
But after reviewing internal emails, the mayor was forced to admit she learned about the raid in November 2019, when a top aide warned Lightfoot about a “pretty bad wrongful raid” by Chicago police.
“I have a lot of questions about this one,” she wrote at the time to top aides.
The mayor has emphatically denied knowing anything about her Law Department’s efforts to block CBS2 from airing bodycam video of the raid. To underscore the point, she forced the resignation of corporation counsel Mark Flessner, a longtime friend who served together with Lightfoot in the U.S. attorney’s office.
Although the inspector general’s final report includes no recommendation of disciplinary action, Ferguson said Young was victimized by the initial raid and then “re-victimized” after-the-fact by every level of government.
“She was treated poorly in the context of her FOIA request. She was treated poorly in the context of her litigation. She was just treated poorly and, in some ways, unprofessionally by people who are supposed to be serving the greater public good and approached this in a transactional, litigated way, forgetting the fact that this woman is a victim of government conduct and misconduct and should be treated with respect and as a victim throughout,” he said.
Lightfoot is a former Police Board president who, along with Ferguson, co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability in the furor that followed the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel was ordered to release the video of convicted Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald sixteen times after the video was concealed until Emanuel had been safely re-elected in 2015.
The task force drafted the policy that requires the city to release, within 60 days, video from body- and dashboard-mounted cameras of police shootings and other incidents involving police shooting.
That’s why the accusation that she somehow played a role in the Law Department’s efforts to conceal the video hit so close to home.
“There’s a lot of trust that’s been breached. And I know that there is a lot of trust in me that’s been breached. We will do better. We will win back the trust that we have lost,” the mayor said in December.
On Tuesday, Ferguson characterized the Lightfoot administration’s handling of the Anjanette Young video as a “remarkable, troubling closing of a circle.”
“It brings us back where we were five or six years ago and where her career got its jump-start. Yet the city is engaged in similar activity — and in this instance, with respect to a living victim,” he said.