The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD or the Department) disciplinary grievance procedure. When allegations of misconduct are made against a CPD member, the assigned investigating agency determines whether the allegations should be Sustained and, if so, recommend appropriate discipline for the accused member. CPD will then review the investigating agency’s disciplinary recommendation. If the Department goes on to issue discipline after this review process, the member facing discipline may have a right to grieve. Sworn members who are covered by union contracts have rights to pursue a disciplinary grievance for some but not all types of discipline issued to them.
The disciplinary grievance procedure is governed by the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) negotiated between the City of Chicago and each of the unions representing the sworn member ranks of police officer, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. There are three grievance procedure pathways for CPD sworn members who wish to challenge issued discipline: (1) binding summary opinions (BSO), (2) arbitrations, and (3) Police Board review. The pathways open to a member depend on both the specific discipline issued and the member’s rank. CPD and the relevant union may also settle a grieved disciplinary case before the formal process is complete; these settlements can result in reduced or eliminated discipline.
In addition to understanding the impact of the grievance procedure on disciplinary outcomes, OIG reached several findings that bear on the transparency and consistency of the disciplinary and accountability process:
• Arbitrators exercise broad, unbounded discretion in their reviews of grievance cases, and as a result they often cite factors in their decisions that extend beyond the specific alleged misconduct including, but not limited to, management and operational considerations such as an officer’s history (as mitigating or aggravating) and the deterrent effect of the discipline.
• The processes for BSOs and grievance arbitrations lack transparency, as compared to the publicly available information on complaints.
• The settlement process lacks transparency, as compared to the publicly available information on complaints.
• Written settlement agreements do not follow a consistent format, and settlement agreements do not consistently record all basic descriptive information about cases.
• Settlements are regularly used to resolve discipline after Sustained findings of misconduct, and these settlements regularly result in the removal of rule violations from sworn members’ records.
• Ninety percent of completed grievance arbitrations between November 2014 and December 2017 have been assigned to just three independent arbitrators operating with vast discretion, little public transparency, and negligible substantive post-decision review.
OIG recommends that CPD take several measures to improve the consistency and transparency of the disciplinary grievance procedure.
AIG's Green Book, Principles and Standards for Offices of Inspectors General