Issue Brief: Update to Chicago Police Board 10-Year Analysis

Updated analysis of Police Board decisions with additional analysis of both agenda items from the Committee on Police and Fire from 2006-2009 and litigation payouts related to police related litigation from four largest cities in America.

As a follow-up to our 2009 study titled “Chicago Police Board: A Ten-Year Analysis,” CJP has analyzed Board decisions from January 2009 through June 2010 to determine if the Board’s practices have improved. The results demonstrate that the Board’s practice of failing to provide written rationales for their decisions continues despite it not being in the public’s interests.

Our report, Police Board decisions mentioned in the report, and the data sets used as the basis for this report are all available for download below.

Irreconcilable Judgments?

The manner in which the Board currently releases its decisions prohibits anyone from understanding their decisions. Why the Board refuses to fire one officer, after finding the officer guilty of a series of rule violations (including acts of domestic violence), while it fires another officer for similar charges, but which contain no violence, still mystifies community members.

We provide two individual cases below to demonstrate how inconsistent the Board’s decisions appear. Both decisions were handed down within 35 days of each other in the summer of 2009.

cpd 10 yr update chart

General statistics about discharge cases during the study period where the Board handed down a decision

  • 35 – Total number of decisions in termination cases handed down by the Board for which the Superintendent sought termination of a sworn officer during the study time period.
  • 14 – The number of cases for which the Board overruled the Superintendent’s desire to discharge a police officer during this time period.
  • 9 – The number of case for which the Board found either the officer guilty of all the charges alleged or a substantial majority of the charges including violent and criminal behavior but refused to discharge the officer.

Overrule Rate

overrule rateIn our study published last year, we analyzed Board decisions from 1999-2008. Our results uncovered a startling high rate of which the Board overruled the Superintendent’s desire to discharge an officer. For transparency purposes, we are publishing both the rate associated with our previous findings and the rate we found in our review of Board decisions from the last 18 months. We highly recommend to our readers that they do not draw any concrete conclusions from the different rates reported here because of the very large discrepancy in length of the study periods: ten years compared to 18 months. One could argue that a 40% rate of overruling a Superintendent’s desire to discharge an officer is still too high. Only the access to the Board’s rationales for their decisions would allow the public, policy makers, and the men and women of the Chicago Police Department the insight they need to understand why this number is at the level it is at.

Beyond Connecting the Dots: CJP is dedicated to improving the public discussion on crime and violence by providing data that allows the public to understand the ramifications of the actions of a single agency on other agencies. Here, we add to our analysis of Board decisions two additional data sets: an analysis of agenda items from meetings of the Chicago City Council Committee on Police and Fire and an analysis of litigation payouts related to police activities.

Chicago City Council Committee on Police & Fire Agenda Times

CJP analyzed agendas from the Chicago City Council Committee on Police and Fire from 2006-2009 to determine the degree of which the Committee had fulfilled its oversight responsibilities of the criminal justice agencies under its purview. We analyzed each agenda item from all 41 meetings and our results are displayed in the chart provided below. The oversight by the Committee on Police and Fire on police related agencies seem less than ideal.

committee on police and fire

CJP filed a request with the City Clerk of Chicago to obtain these years of meeting agendas from the Committee. We then analyzed each agenda item to determine whether the individual agenda items involved related to any of the following:

  • Chicago Police Board
  • Independent Police Review Authority
  • Violence / Crime / Brutality
  • Donated Equipment

The fourth category “Donated Equipment” includes any agenda items for which a member of the Committee or any other alderman was trying to have the city donate obsolete equipment (all most fire department related) to a foreign country.


Clearly, the results detail a pattern of serious neglect by the Committee to their oversight responsibilities on the agencies that make up the Police Accountability system.  Additionally, the Committee also seemed to not be very concerned with violence, crime, or brutality over the period of our study.  We can only assume that the Chicago Police Board’s decisions would have been more in line with the Superintendent’s recommendation if the spotlight of oversight by the Committee was ever present.

Below you can download in excel and word format the data set of agenda items and their corresponding city codes that go along with the agenda items.

Civil Litigation Payouts: 4 Largest Cities in America

litigation payoutsCJP has obtained ten years of civil litigation payouts from the four largest cities in the country to allow citizens to compare Chicago’s payouts to other similar sized cities. In the chart provided, we present what amounts to a per capita tax to individual citizens from these cities from civil judgments and settlements related to police activities in 1999-2008.

Over the last decade, each citizen from the City of Chicago has had to pay a tax of $108 over the last decade. While being in line with the costs in both Los Angeles and New York, for the same time period, it seems like the costs continue to climb without an end in sight.

In 2006, Carol Marine reported on NBC Chicago that the City of Chicago paid out a total of $100,000,000 from 2001-2005 related to civil litigation payouts. This figure from 2005-2009 grew to $212,680,604, a percentage change of 213% in just over a single 5 year cycle.

All of the figures quoted here regarding civil litigation payouts do not include any expenses incurred by the City’s Law Department or expenses paid to private civil attorneys to defend this litigation. CJP’s expectations are that these figures run into the millions of dollars, in not tens of millions of dollars.

The Chart below details the amount of money paid out by the City of Chicago per year from 1999-2009. From 1999, when the City of Chicago paid out $6,911,819, the amount paid has been growing steadily to a whopping figure of $81,704,688 in 2008 and $39,675,089 in 2009. Despite this consistent growth in costs incurred by the City of Chicago related to police initiated civil rights violations and other police related activities, the Committee on Police and Fire has not taken the issue up; instead spending 40% of their agenda items on donating fire equipment and other obsolete equipment to foreign countries.


Average Payouts Over Time:


  • From 1999-2008: $30,796,483 – 10 year average including 1999 and not including 2009
  • From 1999-2009: $31,603,629 – 11 year average including 1999 through 2009
  • From 2000-2009: $34,072,810 – 10 year average not including 1999 but including 2000-2009
  • Total paid out 1999-2008: $307,796,834


  • From 1999-2008: $1,569,325 – 10 year average
  • Total Paid out from 1999-2008: $10,985,274

New York

  • From 1999-2008: $92,100,000 – 10 year average
  • Total paid out 1999-2008: $926,100,000

Los Angeles*

  • From 2002-2008: $41,041,065 – 10 year average
  • Total paid out 2002-2008: $287,287,454
    * Data only available from 2002-2008


Lack of oversight by our legislative leaders has allowed the Chicago Police Board to routinely return officers to the street despite the Superintendent’s wishes that they be discharged. This same lack of oversight plays a role in Chicago’s ever increasing tax to local citizens related to police-related litigation costs. Transparent oversight is essential in order to regulate the behavior of the men and women on the Chicago Police Department as well as the Chicago Police Board and Independent Police Review Authority. The Committee on Police and Fire should act with all due haste to enact 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti’s amendments to the Chicago Police Board ordinance. Clearly, the Board will not change its practices until the City Council mandates the practice.

News Coverage

Data for Download

You will find data related to our research available for download on our “Data Sets” page.

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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