IRC releases annual report on UCPD complaints

The eight complaints that were reviewed by the IRC focused on racial profiling, unprofessional or rude behavior, and unwarranted search or damage of property.

By Katherine Vega

The Independent Review Committee (IRC), which reviews the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), recently released its annual report of complaints against the UCPD. The report, which was published at the end of fall quarter, contains case summaries and analyses of all 12 complaints filed against the UCPD during the 2014–15 academic year. In total, eight allegations were reviewed in the report.

According to the Department of Safety and Security’s website, the IRC is a provost-appointed committee consisting of three faculty members, three students, two staff members, and three community members. The IRC’s charge states that it is independent of the UCPD and does not replace internal discipline procedures. According to the report, the IRC investigates claims that “allege abusive language, dereliction of duty, excessive force, or violation of rights.”

The 2014–15 Annual Report acknowledged the 12 complaints filed against the UCPD. Four were outside the purview of the IRC, and thus did not elicit any further response. The other eight complaints were classified in one of five possible categories: sustained, not sustained, exonerated, unfounded, or administratively closed.

The eight complaints that were reviewed by the IRC contained a total of 15 separate allegations, mostly focusing on racial profiling, unprofessional or rude behavior, and unwarranted search or damage of property.

Of these 15 allegations, seven received a response of “not sustained,” meaning that conflicting stories and a lack of evidence in the written record of the investigation did not support a determination of whether the event occurred. Five allegations were “sustained,” meaning that the alleged action occurred and was unjustified. Two allegations were “exonerated,” meaning that while the alleged conduct occurred, further review found the action justified. One was determined to be “unfounded,” or factually inaccurate.

According to Josh Cannon, a sixth-year Ph.D. student in the Humanities and a member of last year’s board, the IRC discussed all the complaints in the report at meetings throughout the year.

“We met each quarter to discuss whichever complaints had accrued during the previous quarter. Usually there was about 4-5 complaints to discuss…. After the review of details we would discuss our thoughts on each decision rendered by the police department,” Cannon said in an e-mail to The Maroon.

Cannon and Veronica Portillo Heap (A.B. ’15), who served on the 2014–15 Committee, said that they were not involved in the drafting of the report. Instead, Ingrid Gould, associate provost for faculty and student affairs and staff on the committee, sent out a working draft to the committee via e-mail for edits and revisions in November.

The IRC provided occasional commentary in certain case summaries. Several additional commentaries expressed concern over the incidents and stressed the importance of “civil interactions,” while others noted that the officer received additional training. One comment, regarding a case of alleged racial profiling, highlighted the difficulty of distinguishing a warranted stop from a stop influenced by race. According to Cannon and Heap, allegations involving racial profiling were the most contentious among council members.

The annual report’s list of complaints also included the UCPD’s internal responses to the allegations. In the 2014–2015 year, IRC responses to all 15 allegations in the eight complaints matched up with UCPD responses.

The sample of eight complaints in the purview of the IRC showed that some genders and races were disproportionately represented as complainants. Of the nine people who filed the eight complaints, eight were men and one was a woman. Six complainants were black, two were white, and another was of an unspecified race. In Hyde Park, less than a third of residents are black, with a high concentration of non-black residents closer to the University. (The patrol area of the UCPD extends from 37th St. to 65th St., well beyond the borders of Hyde Park).

The IRC was a source of controversy earlier this academic year, when its application procedure changed. Previously, applicants to the IRC went through Student Government, who suggested applicants for the provost’s approval. This year, the application was released through Campus and Student Life and applicants were selected by Michele Rasmussen. The Campaign for Equitable Policing’s Week of Action in October was framed partially in response to the application process changes, in addition to other allegations of racial profiling against members of the community and the University by the UCPD.