Under fire, COPA chief concedes agency has ‘faced challenges in the release of video material’
Two days after Chicago’s inspector general detailed the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s repeated failure to meet the 60-day deadline to release video, audio and documents related to incidents involving officers’ use of force, the agency’s top official conceded Thursday that the agency has “faced challenges in the release of video material.”
During the monthly Chicago Police Board meeting, COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts claimed her agency is “overcoming” the issues outlined in Tuesday’s report by Deborah Witzburg, the city’s newly appointed deputy inspector general for public safety. After reviewing 122 cases over a threeyear period, Witzburg found 33 instances where the 60-day policy was violated.
But Roberts also sought to clarify some of the findings of Witzburg’s report and insisted that “COPA has never intentionally withheld the release of a mandated transparency material.”
Roberts explained that 14 of the cases were delayed by a single day. She noted that in some instances the videos have been released 60 days after the agency was notified of an incident involving an officers’ use of force, not 60 days after it actually happened. “Incidents can occur in the last hour of the night. However, COPA may not receive notification from CPD until the midnight hour has elapsed. And thus, the following day,” added Roberts, who said the issue “has been corrected.”
In 12 other cases, Roberts said the release of video, audio and police documents was delayed because COPA needed to first confirm that “great bodily harm occurred.”
“In these 12 instances, COPA released the transparency materials 60 days after confirming that the complaint was eligible for release,” added Roberts, who said she takes “full responsibility” for the delays.
She did not discuss the remaining seven cases.
Though Roberts said she has modified COPA’s processes to incorporate Witzburg’s recommendations, she didn’t address another recent inspector general’s report that found her agency has improperly ended some inquiries.
No Police Board members posed any questions or raised any concerns.