Round Tables and the Aaron Harrison Shooting:

Within a few hours after Harrison was shot to death, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) determined that the shooting was justified. A very interesting fact if you consider that the pathologist report is still yet to be completed. According to David Foley, the administrator of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, the only information the Cook County medical examiner has released to anyone, including the CPD, is that Harrison was “shot in the back and that his death was due to a homicide” (David Foley, Phone interview, Aug. 30, 2007) meaning it was not a self inflicted wound. This peaks our interest about exactly what process the Chicago Police Department (CPD) uses to make such quick judgments about such important events.

We have known for years that the CPD uses a process called a “round table” to quickly access the situation and determine whether the shooting was justified. This process is closed to public access, yet it plays an important role in how the CPD handles officer-involved shootings. We were not in the alley to make a decision about the legitimacy of the shooting. What is of issue here is the process by which the CPD made a very quick decision about the use of deadly force. It is clear that making any decision about the shooting within only hours of the occurrence significantly limits the information available to the decision makers. The Chicago Justice Project is concerned about how this process could be completed in such a short time and how so little of the available information regarding the shooting has been released to the public. The public is not given access to the information that the decision makers within the CPD used to base their decision of justification on, thus the public is once again left in the dark about the shooting and subsequent death of one of our community members.

I have been able to obtain a copy of a deposition taken from Deputy Chief of Detectives Michael Chasen on Sept. 28, 2005. Chasen was propelled to give testimony to detail the practice of “roundtables” in the federal civil suit of Tommy Faye Grant on his own behalf and as Administrator of the Estate of Cornelius Ware, deceased vs. City of Chicago and Chicago Police Officers Anthony Blake, John Cleggett, Richard Griffin and Tiffany Walker (Case #: 04cv2612). Through the use of this deposition I will give you an insider’s glimpse into the practice of round tables. I hope this informs your decision about the round table held just hours after Harrison’s death at which time the hierarchy of the CPD decided the shooting was justified. What follow is portions of the 100 pages of transcripts that were generated by the deposition. You can download the entire transcript of the Deposition of Chief of Detectives Michael Chasen (PDF format). The excerpted portion of the transcripts should give you a reasonable detailed account of exactly how the process works and who participates. You can make your own conclusions about the legitimacy of the process.

The lawyers representing Grant are from the law firm of Loevy and Loevy. Jon Loevy is asking all the questions contained within the transcript. Chasen is represented by Ms. Penelope M. George Senior Counsel from the City of Chicago Department of Law. For a couple of the questions the answers are shortened because the material that is not included is not germane to our purposes here. For all other questions detailed below the question and answer are verbatim quotes from the transcripts. I detail which questions the answers have been shorted and I also detail where in the transcript by page number you can find every question and answer. If you feel that I have left off something pertinent please let me know via the comments function and I will make the needed changes and publicize the correction.

Q: What is the Purpose of Round table? Pg. 12

A: “To gather information without undue delay that affords the assistant deputy superintendent, not only information that is then passed on to the first deputy superintendent of police and superintendent of police, but also affords the assistant deputy superintendent, the street deputy, and the supervisors and representatives of the Office of Professional Standards as to the propriety of the use of deadly force by the officers involved. ”

Q: How is the result of the round table communicated to the street deputy? Pg. #13

A: “The result of the roundtable is a decision of the street deputy.”

Q: What, if anything, does the street deputy rely upon in making his report to the first deputy superintendent? Pg. 13

A: “Observations at the scene, observations of the – those persons brought forth to give witness at the round table. Information gathered from individuals at the scene or other individuals at the round table.”

Q: Who are the detectives who run the round table? Pg. 16

A: “Well, that depends on the case. I don’t know specific detectives.

Q: Okay, What responsibilities, if any, does the detectives have who runs round table? Pg. 17

A: That is their responsibility to organize the round table, to understand and make – make clear the statements and observations of the people who are brought forth before the round table. They make the decision as to whom and in what order those persons come before the round table. They make sure that all the necessary entities which become part and parcel of the round table are there. And then they in fact conduct the round table.”

Q: And who asks the police officer, who is the subject of the round table, whether or not they’re willing or not willing to testify? Pg. 19-20

A: “The question is never posed in that manner.”

Q: How is the question posed? pg. 20

A: “The question is posed when the officer enters the room that the round table is held in. The union representative asks the street deputy and the supervisor from OPS if they are – if there is the intention of obtaining a complaint register number against the officer. If they are informed that a complaint register number is going to be or has already been obtained, then it’s generally the decision of the union representative to tell his officer that they will not participate and they leave.”

Q: What percentage of Chicago Police officers agree to testify at a round table as opposed to those that refuse to testify at a round table? Pg. 21 (Answer is excerpt)

A: “I personally have only had one situation, one round table in my career that an officer has declined to give witness at the round table”

Q: And in the course of conducting a round table, if any of the subjects, meaning perhaps the person who was shot was subject to a criminal history, would that material, as a matter of course, be made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 38

A: Yes

Q: When a round table conducts its investigation of a police officer who has shot someone, is the police officer’s history made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 38 A: No. Q: Let me clarify what I mean by information. Any CRs which the police officers have in the past, is that made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 39

A: No.

Q: Is any citizen complaint of any kind, in any form, which has been made against the police officer made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 39

A: No.

Q: Are any suspensions which the police officer has received made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 39

A: No.

Q: If a police officer, and I’m just asking hypothetically, had shot eight other people in the eight weeks preceding the round table investigation, would that material be made available to the members of the round table? Pg. 39

A: Yes. That would not be indicated

Q: Why is that? Pg. 40

A: It’s not – It’s not given out.

Q: I’m sorry, sir. Pg. 40

A: It’s not given out. That information is not given out.

Q: What do you mean when you say given out? Pg. 40

A: It’s not germane to the situation, and it’s not utilized, and it’s not afforded to the members of the round table.

Q: When the IR information is revealed to the members of the round table, are the written documents which are distributed or does someone just read off the criminal history? Pg. 40

A: Those would be – Those would be copies of criminal histories which have been printed out.

Q: And does everyone sitting at the table get a copy of it? Pg. 40

A: Yes.

Q: All right. What information, if any, about the police officer who is being investigated in the matter of a civilian is give to the members of the round table? Pg. 40-41

A: Date of appointment, birth date, unit, assignment, partner that day, individual car assignment, hours of assignment, uniform requirements of the day.

Q: Is there a requirement that the proceedings of a round table be transcribed? Pg. 44-45

A: No.

Q: Is there a requirement that the proceedings of a round table not be transcribed? Pg. 44-45

A: No.

Q: This is a conglomeration of several questions for brevity sake so you can quickly see who much attend. 

A: Must attend round table: 1. Street Deputy (Assistant Deputy Superintendent0 2. Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, (Felony Review) 3. Representative of Office of Professional Standards 4. Watch Commander of the District of occurrence 5. Detective Commander of the Area of occurrence 6. Involved Detective

Q: What happens if one of those six people or designees are unable to attend? Pg. 50

A: We wait

Q: You can’t conduct a round table without all six, is that right? Pg. 50

A: You could conduct a round table without the detective commander, but the other participants would be necessary.

Q: What are the alternative decisions that can be reached by the round table? Pg. 53

A: There is either the proper use of deadly force or there is a decision that there was an improper use of deadly force.

Q: Is there a vote of the members that are there? Pg. 53

A: No.

Q: Is there a discussion that is conducted at the meeting as to whether there was a proper use of deadly force or an improper use? Pg. 53

A: No.

Q: Is the event meant to encourage a decision among the people participating as to whether there was a proper or improper use of deadly force? Pg. 53

A: No.

Q: Is it purely an investigative function, that meaning the round table function of?

A: It’s a fact-finding function.

Q: What is the – What are the time parameters, if any, of when a round table is conducted? Pg. 54

A: It’s conducted as soon as all of those participants who are necessary for the proper function of the round table can be gathered, can be interviewed. That the function can be documents on the board, the sketch that we talked about being made, and all of those things are done, then a round table is done. A round table is done in the continuance of the investigation on the day – or the continuance of the day without break of the occurrence.

Q: Why is a round table conducted relatively quickly? Pg. 54

A: So that the first deputy and the superintendent can have information as to the – whether the officers involved have followed the rules and regulations of the Chicago Police Department so that they can inform the public to that fact.

Q: Is it for the purpose of quickly advising the public? Is that one of the reasons? Pg. 54-55

A: That is one of the reasons, yes.

Q: Well, am I correct in saying that at least that sometimes witnesses don’t appear for days after a shooting?

A: Sometimes

Q: So any decision, whether it’s proper use of deadly force or improper use of deadly force, may not even have all the witnesses present, isn’t that correct?

A: A decision that is made is based on the best information that is available at the time the decision is made. That decision obviously can always be changed based on information that is received or uncovered or determined or bought forth at a later date.

Q: Has the City of Chicago ever reversed a decision of the round table? Pg. 55 (shortened to exclude discussion between attorneys)

A: I believe there has been, yes.

Q: When? Pg. 56

A: I don’t know when.

Q: What was the reason? Pg. 56

A: I don’t know the reason.

Q: Has there been more than one occasion that you’re aware of in which the findings of the round table have been reverse?

A: No, there hasn’t.

Q: Does the street deputy talk to the police officer who is being investigated at the round table? Pg. 71

A: He talks to the officer before the round table.

Q: Does he (street deputy) speak out at the round table and say I spoke to the police officer who is being investigated and he told me I fired once, I fired twice, anything at all? Pg. 71

A: No.

Q: Does anyone other than the street deputy talk to the police officer who is being investigated before the round table? Pg. 72 A: Yes Q: Who? Pg 72

A: Detectives

Q: Do the detectives who have spoken to the police officer who is being investigated report on their conversations with that police officer to the members of the round table? Pg. 72-73

A: No.

Q: If a police officer being investigated speaks to the street deputy and speaks to detectives and gives them some version of the shooting in which he was involved, am I correct in saying that those people, meaning the detectives and the street deputy, would not tell everybody else sitting at the round table what the policeman told him? Pg. 74

A: That is correct.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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