In the months following the Chicago Police Department’s wrongful raid on the home of social worker Anjanette Young, multiple city agencies in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration hid the truth about the search, failed to notify investigators about potential violations of police policy and members of her press staff misled the public about all of it according to a summary report released today by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General.
“City government failed to appropriately respond to a victim of a CPD wrong raid, failed to act with transparency in City operations, and performed a series of governmental actions in a manner that prioritized communications and public relations concerns over the higher mission of City government,” the OIG found in its investigation.
Male officers executing a search warrant burst into Young’s West Side home in 2019. Police body camera video showed her repeatedly telling them they had the wrong house. She had to stand naked in handcuffs for nearly 10 minutes before the officers allowed her to get dressed, city investigators found.
A national uproar about the raid and city efforts to downplay it led to the removal of officials including the city’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner.
The raid was first exposed by CBS2 Chicago, which broadcast portions of the body camera videos in December 2020.
But according to the OIG investigation, city officials misled CBS journalists when they inquired about the case - telling the station that the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability had been investigating the case for months, when in fact an investigation was not even open yet when the communication happened in November 2019.
The city also denied Young’s initial public records request for the videos by saying it would interfere with an ongoing investigation, however according to the OIG, that investigation was not started until after Young and CBS2 filed Freedom of Information Act requests.
COPA completed its belated investigation in April, more than two years after the raid, and recommended discipline for more than a half-dozen officers.
The inspector general’s summary report says that investigation was so late in starting because multiple police leaders, city attorneys and mayoral aides failed to notify the investigative agency like they were supposed to, even though all were aware of potential policy violations.
“OIG’s investigation determined that COPA did not receive notice until the Mayors’ Office assistant press secretary reached out to COPA’s public information officer and inquired about Young as part of the City’s response to Young and CBS2’s FOIA requests for [body camera] footage,” the summary report reads.
That notification came nine months after the raid on Young’s home.
The OIG summary report also adds more detail about the false statements made by the mayor’s team about Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s knowledge of the Young raid.
Initially the mayor’s office claimed Lightfoot had no knowledge of the raid or the video prior to CBS2 reporting on the incident. When emails revealed that Lightfoot had been notified about the raid more than a year prior, Lightfoot pivoted and said she had participated in only limited conversations about Young’s case and didn’t remember them.
However, according to the new report, Lightfoot participated in a conference call about the case and gave staffers a list of “detailed questions” to answer about the raid and its aftermath.
“Regardless of whether the Mayor recalled these conversations or information, the release of a public and declarative denial of any prior knowledge of the Young raid by the Mayor’s press office lacked the appropriate due diligence and fact-checking, and created an incomplete and inaccurate depiction to the public and the media of the City’s prior discussions of the wrong raid,” the report reads.
The inspector general also found that Lightfoot’s decision to hire an outside law firm to investigate the Young raid and aftermath actually impeded the inspector general’s investigation and worked to obscure the full truth from the public.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from WBEZ.
However, the IG’s summary report includes a response from Lightfoot. According to the report, the mayor’s office pointed to reforms enacted since the raid, including revising the CPD search warrant policy and streamlining the process for people to obtain video of their interactions with police.
Editor’s note: This story and its headline have been edited to more closely reflect the language used in the inspector general’s report.