City Inspector General Joe Ferguson | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

CPD accused of failing to report people who shouldn’t possess guns to state cops

SHARE CPD accused of failing to report people who shouldn’t possess guns to state cops
SHARE CPD accused of failing to report people who shouldn’t possess guns to state cops

The Chicago Police Department was accused Wednesday of a bureaucratic oversight that threatens to make an already violent Chicago a more dangerous place to live and work.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson accused the department of failing to comply with the “clear and present danger reporting requirements” of the state law governing Firearms Owners Identification Cards.

The law requires cops to notify the Illinois State Police within 24 hours whenever they encounter an individual who poses a “clear and present danger” — either to themselves or to the general public.

But that is not what’s happening, according to an explosive new report released Wednesday that was the first by the public safety section of the inspector general’s office.

The “compliance evaluation” was conducted after a January 2017 complaint that “expressed concern” about the police department’s “process of returning firearms to individuals who had threatened suicide,” Ferguson said.

RELATED: THE WATCHDOGS: Police failing to ensure mentally ill don’t haveguns, Nov. 15, 2015

To test the accuracy of that complaint, the IG identified 37 incidents over a 3 1/2 year period ending on April 29, 2017 in which Chicago Police officers transported an individual from whom a firearm was recovered to a mental health facility.

In only one of those 37 cases did CPD make the required “clear and present danger” report to the state police. One other report was filed in an incident that did not involve transportation to a mental health facility.

The 37 cases do not represent the “universe of all possible situations” in which police officers interact with individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others.

Ferguson noted that the state’s “sweeping definition” of “clear and present danger” includes “physical or verbal behavior, whether suicidal or directed at another” with “no requirement that weapons of any kind be involved.” He further noted that the state reporting requirement includes a “complete lack of exceptions.”

As a result, the inspector general concluded that the “number of clear and present danger situations” created by the CPD’s non-compliance “likely far exceeds the two reported incidents.”

“Individuals who should not be entitled to possess a firearm under federal or state law continue to exercise that legal right due to CPD’s inaction,” Ferguson wrote in a letter to the mayor and City Council that accompanied his report.

“In a time of continuing high incidence of gun violence in Chicago — and as part of a comprehensive crime strategy — full compliance with the act’s reporting requirement provides CPD a key mechanism by which to prevent unnecessary gun violence and keep firearms away from those who are not legally entitled to their possession.”

He added, “Anything less than full compliance . . . creates cracks through which individuals likely to harm themselves or others with firearms may fall.”

Ferguson’s complaints are particularly timely, considering the fact that the Waffle House shooter had an Illinois FOID card.

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department “takes this issue very seriously and it’s our responsibility to provide police officers with guidance and policies that communicate clear direction on what actions officers are supposed to take.”

As a result, Guglielmi said CPD has “adopted all recommendations” from Ferguson “and issued an updated general order based on current state law that specifies exactly what police personnel are to do in cases where individuals pose a danger to themselves or others.”

Ferguson welcomed the quick and complete embrace of his recommendations.

“CPD’s non-compliance with the FOID Card Act has deprived it of a critical tool to take guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to public safety as part of its larger effort to combat gun violence,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in a news release.

“Today’s report, the first from the new Public Safety Section, is demonstrative of the benefits of civilian oversight in assisting CPD in identifying ways of improving operations, enhancing public safety and fostering public confidence through effective performance of its important responsibilities.”

The Public Safety Section has been without permanent leadership since January when Laura Kunard resigned from the $137,052-a-year job created by the City Council at the same time aldermen abolished the Independent Police Review Authority and replaced it with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

Kunard’s surprise resignation was a blow to police reform. It triggered yet another exhaustive nationwide search.

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