There are two separate accountability offices in Chicago – one for judges and one for the police. The aim of putting these offices in place is to ensure that members of the public can make a complaint about a police officer or a judge without fearing that they would face retaliation. Moreover, the judge or police officer also get some protection because they know that the complaint will be carefully investigated and the right action taken to ensure justice. The Kalven case showed the importance of reporting early and accurately when an officer has acted in an illegal manner.
Previously, many members of the public were suffering in silence because they feared that the influential officers they complained about had the power to take actions against them. For example, some worried that their cases would not be heard fairly or that the police would plant evidence on them. There were even examples of police beating up and harassing people who dared to complain about them. All this has changed with the introduction of the two accountability offices and increased public access to the records.
Complaining About the Police
The police have an online complaint system that is managed by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). You are required to register your complaint online using the standard forms. This form will include certain personal details about you and the nature of the complaint. There are strict rules on how that information can be used. For example, any officer who illegally accesses the complaints system for purposes of revenge against the complainer will face disciplinary action.
Those who are unable to make use of the online forum can call the agency at 312.743-COPA. You may even be able to write to them at their address, which is 1615 W. Chicago Avenue, 4th Floor (Chicago, IL, 60622). Their offices receive visitors from Monday to Friday during the working hours of 9 am to 7 pm. They will ask for documents and witness statements as the complaints are being investigated.
Complaining About a Judge
Complaints about judges tend to start at the court where the incident happened or where the accused judge works. These complaints are handled on a team basis, but those that come in concerning judges are treated as very serious. In some cases, they can lead to the impeachment of the judge (removal from office by the Senate) or even criminal charges for committing federal crimes. Sometimes it is not you, the individual, making the complaint, but your lawyers making a complaint on your behalf. These types of complaints are handled under the Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3.
The Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) handles the most serious cases. However, there are penalties for making many erroneous or unjustified complaints against an officer of the court. JIB was created as an oversight body that is independent of the administration of the judiciary in Chicago.
It is important to remember that JIB is different from the Illinois Courts Commission. The commission merely tests the evidence brought in the case so that a decision can be taken as to whether to bring any charges against the judge. This is regardless of the type of case when the illegal conduct happened. For example, even those accused of the most serious drugs crimes can make a complaint.
Some Key Points to Remember
The process of raising a complaint against a sitting judge or police officer is not an easy one. You need evidence to back you up. That is why it is always a good idea to contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law on telephone number 312-560-7100. At least you will have a good idea of what the law on complaints is and the best way to proceed.
(image courtesy of Spenser H)