The Citizen Police Oversight Committee (CPOC) reviewed 10 complaints of alleged misconduct made against officers of the Oak Park Police Department between October 2020 and April 2021 according to the committee’s bi-annual report which was presented to the village board at its June 7 meeting.
“We reviewed 10 complaints from the public. This was down from 13 complaints the year prior in 2019,” CPOC Chair Donovan Pepper said.
The complaints involved about 20 rule violations against 13 police officers. The names of the 13 officers were omitted from the report.
The rules the officers were accused of violating ranged from lacking courtesy, demonstrating unbecoming conduct and unsatisfactory performance, as well as dishonesty for violating the prohibition of bias-based policing.
Each complaint is investigated by the Oak Park Police Department either through its internal affairs division or a watch commander, which Trustee Arti Walker-Pedakkotla summed up as “the police department reviews complaints against the police department and finds whether the police department did anything wrong.”
Out of the 10 complaints mentioned in the report, only three were substantiated. CPOC sustained the results of each investigation.
“All of them were upheld unanimously by the police oversite committee,” Pepper said.
The three substantiated complaints indicated that the involved officers violated the rules related to satisfactory performance, courtesy and “obedience to laws, rules and regulations, policies, procedures and directives.”
The report breaks down the gender and racial demographics of both the accused officers and the complainant. The report also confirmed that the majority of those serving in the Oak Park Police Department are male and white.
The race of the accused officers was overwhelmingly white and male – 92 percent of accused officers were white and 87 percent were male.
Out of the complainants, 50 percent were white, 40 percent were Black, and 10 percent were Latinx, according to the report. The gender of the complainants was 70 percent male.
Recommendations by CPOC were included in the report. Pepper told the village board that CPOC wanted to increase the public’s awareness of the committee by creating a forum to engage and educate residents.
In light of developments to reform law enforcement, CPOC recommended the village board review the oversight model used by the committee.
“What’s the true model of civilian oversight of police and how best can we utilize our role as an entity that makes recommendations to you, the village board,” said Pepper.
CPOC’s recommendations included that “current and ongoing list” of the departmental rules that “comprise potential officer violations” be made available to the committee.
“The committee is of the belief that we need the full scope of the different rules,” said Pepper. “We’d like to see the larger list to make sure that we are comprehensively understanding what is being presented during the review process.”
These recommendations were supported by Walker-Peddakotla, who has advocated for giving CPOC greater oversight authority.
“CPOC doesn’t have the independent oversight ability that it should have over the police,” she said.
To “give a little perspective,” Trustee Jim Taglia told the board that the three sustained complaints represented .0001 percent of the 28,600 calls for service covered in the report.
“Obviously any complaints are too many complaints,” said Taglia. “But it is a very small amount.”