Lawsuit: IPRA investigator told to lie to make police shooting look unjustified
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A former longtime police misconduct investigator claims in a new lawsuit he lost his job last year after he refused to give false testimony to make a shooting by an officer seem like it was not justified.
Kelvin Lett made the claim in a complaint filed Sunday against the city of Chicago, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the Independent Police Review Authority, AFSCME Local 654 and Council 31 and others.
Also mentioned throughout the lawsuit, but not named as a defendant, is Lori Lightfoot, the former Police Board president now challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his job. The complaint alleges that Lightfoot, in December 2015, told then-IPRA head Scott Ando she “wanted to fire that motherf—er Lett.”
Lightfoot could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could a COPA representative. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.
Lett began working as an investigator for the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards in 1997, according to his lawsuit. He then continued that work when OPS became IPRA. It has since evolved into COPA.
The lawsuit alleges that, when Lett met Sharon Fairley after she became IPRA administrator near the end of 2015, she extended her hand for a handshake only to retract it once she realized who she was meeting.
Then, in June 2016, Lett alleges Fairley ordered him “to alter his reports so as to lie about his findings on a particular case regarding an officer-involved shooting of a civilian.” He claims Fairley said “he had to have a more ‘devious mind’ to do this job and that he needed to lie about his findings in such a way to reflect that the officer shooting was unjustified.”
Specifically, Fairley allegedly “ordered Lett to lie in his reports that a gun was planted on the victim by the officers involved in the shooting.” The lawsuit says “Lett protested and refused to do so because he had no evidence to support that finding.”
Within two weeks, Fairley transferred Lett to janitorial duties and opened an investigation into Lett for allegedly disclosing confidential information. She ordered him fired in February 2017 after the investigation concluded Lett violated IPRA’s confidentiality policy, according to his lawsuit.
Fairley abruptly resigned from IPRA in the fall of 2017. Days later, she announced her candidacy for Illinois Attorney General.
Lett filed a grievance through AFSCME, and an arbitrator ordered him reinstated with back pay and said his record should be expunged. Lett’s lawsuit alleges he was reinstated but immediately placed on administrative leave with pay. He was assigned to CPD’s FOIA office but “was never actually allowed to return to work,” it said. And AFSCME never tried to enforce the arbitrator’s ruling, Lett claims.
Regardless, Lett alleges his firing “was entirely pretextual” and was simply retaliation for his refusal to provide false testimony.