Chicago’s police oversight agency, COPA, is investigating allegations that at least two Chicago police officers improperly inventoried firearms that they recovered while working on the city’s Far South Side. The full scope of the investigation, which a source said began when a gun went “missing,” and exactly how many cops are involved is unclear.
“COPA is actively investigating the actions of the involved officers and made a recommendation to the Chicago Police Department to relieve the officers of their police powers,” COPA First Deputy Ephraim Eaddy said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon.
Two officers that a source identified by name as being under investigation have been reassigned to desk duty in the Alternate Response Section, according to the Chicago Police Department. CPD declined to answer any other questions about the allegations.
“There is an open investigation into this matter,” the department said in an emailed statement. “We will not comment further to protect the integrity of this investigation.”
Neither CPD nor COPA would confirm how many officers are under investigation. The two cops confirmed to be on desk duty have been on the force for four to five years, according to city records. Both officers were assigned to the Calumet (5th) District before being reassigned due to the investigation. They have not been charged with any wrongdoing.
According to two law enforcement sources, part of COPA’s investigation involves allegations that the officers either did not inventory firearms they seized while on duty or filed false paperwork regarding gun seizures. CPD’s general orders detail specific steps officers must take whenever they remove a gun from the streets.
Failure to inventory a weapon creates the potential for devastating conduct, such as illegally selling the weapons or planting firearms at crime scenes and on people. Officials would not confirm if the ongoing investigation involves any allegation of officers using misappropriated firearms as so-called “drop guns.”
In recent years, the police department has consistently advertised the number of guns its officers seized while on patrol. Twitter feeds operated by CPD, including its 22 patrol districts and recently-departed Supt. David Brown have regularly featured pictures of freshly-seized firearms with words of congratulations for the officers responsible for confiscating the weapon.
“Chicago Police officers took 12,716 guns off Chicago’s streets—an average of more than 34 guns recovered every single day this year,” the department said in a New Year’s Day recap of its activities in 2022. “This also marked the second consecutive year of more than 12,000 firearms taken off the streets by Chicago’s officers.”
But critics argue that the department is misplacing priorities by running up gun seizure numbers when it should focus on arresting violent offenders who use firearms. By motivating cops to get every possible gun off the street, the department could be driving officers to make questionable decisions about searches, pursuits, and other behaviors.
During an online “training session” for journalists in June 2021, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office’s chief data officer, Matthew Saniie, argued that CPD was spending too much time collecting guns and not enough time arresting violent people.
Saniie said that while CPD seized more than 11,000 guns in 2020, “less than 20% of those guns ever get linked back to any type of shooting.”
Noting that 1,400 people accused of carrying a gun illegally in 2020 were arrested during street stops and had no previous convictions, Saniee suggested CPD should focus on “arresting the right people.”