An assistant inspector general riding herd over the New York Police Department has been chosen to serve as Chicago’s deputy inspector general for public safety.
Joseph Lipari replaces Laura Kunard, who resigned from the $137,052-a-year job in January after just six months on the job.
Kunard’s sudden resignation was a setback to the ongoing and monumental effort to reform the Chicago Police Department after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
It was also an embarrassment to Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who chose her after a painstaking search. It forced Ferguson to conduct yet another nationwide search.
On Thursday, the inspector general announced he has found his man in Lipari, who must be confirmed by the City Council.
“Joseph Lipari has a proven track record in police accountability and working closely with communities and oversight agencies,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in a press release.
“Our office looks forward to working with Lipari to foster trust and improve interactions between Chicago Police Department officers and the communities they serve, to identify an operational accountability that ultimately supports the need for reform in Chicago.”
Lipari’s background appears to make him uniquely qualified to bird-dog the Chicago Police Department, particularly at a time when Chicago is still struggling to decide what form civilian review should take.
Ferguson said his choice led investigations into NYPD’s “Use-of-Force reporting, Crisis Intervention Team training and dispatch procedures, and inefficiencies in NYPD’s complaint tracking system.” Lipari was also responsible for supervising staff, and coordinating with the investigations unit.
His resume also includes a stint as administrator of the Citizen Review Board in Syracuse, New York. That’s a job that included “complaint intake, investigations, internal and public reporting, data analysis, development of police policy and training recommendations, community outreach, and public relations.”
Prior to that, he served as executive director of Citizens Alert, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that worked to ensure effective civilian oversight and police accountability.
In that role, Lipari “served as Chair of Community Outreach for the Chicago Coalition for Police Accountability and worked closely with community groups, non-profit organizations, civilian oversight agencies, police, and elected officials to reform Chicago’s police accountability mechanisms,” Ferguson said.
The new deputy inspector general for public safety started his career as an academic researcher and instructor of African-American history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he earned his master’s degree.
There, he “examined the evolution of policing in Chicago and its impact on the City’s African American communities,” Ferguson said.
When Lipari stepped down from the $60,000-a-year Syracuse job in 2016 to take the civilian oversight job in New York, it was in the middle of a legal battle with the city of Syracuse.
The issue, according to local reports, was the police chief’s failure to report his disciplinary decisions to the oversight board in cases that took more than 60 days to complete.
The civilian review board and the city of Syracuse had also gone toe-to-toe over access to 911 tapes and over the hiring of an additional investigator and medical investigator needed to oversee police misconduct.
“Despite some differences of opinion along the way, the CRB, the Common Council, the Administration and the Police Department have always striven to act in the best interests of those they serve, the people of Syracuse,” Lipari was quoted as saying then in a press release announcing his departure.
Before leaving Syracuse, Lipari had proposed a new use-of-force policy and issued a report that blamed a small number of officers for the preponderance of misconduct allegations.
The job of Chicago’s deputy inspector general for public safety was created in October 2016, at the same time the City Council abolished the Independent Police Review Authority and replaced it with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
COPA got a guaranteed budget of 1 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s budget, not including grant funding. That’s roughly $14 million, $2.1 million more than an IPRA budget the police reform advocates have called so totally inadequate that it virtually guaranteed that investigations of police wrongdoing will drag on for months or even years.
That increased budget was particularly important, considering the fact that COPA inherited an expanded annual caseload that includes false arrests, illegal searches, denials of counsel and other constitutional complaints.
The deputy inspector general for public safety is charged with auditing police practices, identifying troubling trends, recommending changes to the police contract and bird-dogging the new multi-tiered accountability system.