COPA and CPD continue to hide details about its investigation in violation of the Freedom of Information Act
CHICAGO – The City’s long-running Sgt. Ronald Watts scandal took a new turn today as one of his victims sued the city for its failure to release its own full report on the Chicago police officers who allegedly participated in Watts’ illegal activities, yet are still on the force.
Clarissa Glenn, one of the 87 individuals who has been exonerated and certified innocent after being framed by Ronald Watts and his Tactical Team, filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the CPD and Civilian Office for Police Accountability (COPA) for COPA’s report detailing its final findings and recommendations.
Throughout the 2000s, many residents of the Ida B. Wells Housing Project were terrorized by a Chicago Police Department Tactical Team led by Sergeant Ronald Watts. Watts and his Tactical Team framed residents for narcotic and gun crimes; falsified police reports; planted drugs and guns on residents; and testified falsely in court.
As a result, at least 87 innocent Black men and women were convicted of crimes they did not commit and have been exonerated of 110 convictions since January 2016. Together, they had been sentenced to serve over 274 years in prison. Last month, 88 other individuals filed a petition in Cook County Criminal Court asserting they, too, were victims of the Watts-led misconduct.
For his 2013 federal conviction, Watts served less than 2 years in prison and one subordinate, Mohammed, served 18 months. No other officer has faced charges. Many of the officers who were on Watts’ Tactical Team remain employed by the Chicago Police Department at taxpayer expense.
On March 15, 2021, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”) issued a press release stating that it “has concluded its investigation and delivered the first report of findings and recommendations to the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department arising from complaints of misconduct by officers associated with former Chicago Police Sergeant Ronald Watts and his Tactical Team.” COPA further claimed that it will post its “Summary Report of Investigation (SRI) providing full detail of its analysis, findings, and recommendations on its website for public consideration upon the conclusion of the Superintendent’s review and after the subject officers have been served with any resulting charges.”
Section 2-78-130 of the City’s ordinance governing COPA gives the CPD Superintendent no more than three months to review COPA’s report. Yet it has been five months since COPA declared it concluded a multi-year investigation and sent the Report to Superintendent Brown for his review. COPA and CPD have remained silent on the findings and have yet to release the report to the public. Glenn brings this suit to stop the City of Chicago, CPD, and COPA from further covering up the atrocities that Watts and his Tactical Team committed by framing the residents of Ida B. Wells Housing Project.
“CPD and COPA and its predecessor IPRA have a long history of disregarding the public’s right to information about police misconduct in violation of the law,” said Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, who represents Ms. Glenn. “Their refusal to release this report is a slap in the face to Watts’ victims and to the people of the City of Chicago. Ms. Glenn herself has a right to know about COPA’s findings regarding her own false arrest, and she wants the public to know as well.”
Besides Topic, Ms. Glenn is also represented by Joshua Burday, Merrick Wayne and Shelley Geiszler of Loevy & Loevy’s FOIA-Transparency Practice. The practice has litigated hundreds of FOIA cases across the country and was responsible for forcing the release of the infamous Laquan McDonald police shooting video, records from the Mueller investigation, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “private emails” about public business, and FBI records that helped lead to the exoneration of an innocent man. A copy of today’s suit, Clarissa Glenn v. Chicago Police Department and Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Case No. 2021-CH-04034, can be found here.