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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New Police Policies for 2016: Part 1 (Officer-Involved Deaths)

Municipalities throughout Illinois are taking action to promote the integrity of their police departments, as directed by a package of new laws adopted by the General Assembly last summer. Many of these new laws become effective on January 1, 2016.  In this 5 part series, we take a look at how local police departments can be prepared with new policies governing officer-involved deaths, officer-worn body cameras, FOIA, use of force, and more.

Part 1 of 5 in the Series - Officer-Involved Deaths

Local police departments usually have an informal policy about who they call, or would call, in the event of a police-related death in their community.  Calling in the Illinois State Police Task Force or one of the collective community or county task forces to investigate officer-involved shootings, jail hangings, and such other incidents can be important to the involved community taking a step back from the investigation to avoid any taint of self-investigation. However, based on new legislation effective January 1, 2016, local investigations and agreements to participate in these type of task forces must meet new requirements from Springfield.

Effective January 1, 2016, the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act requires law enforcement agencies to “have a written policy regarding the investigation of officer-involved deaths that involve a law enforcement officer employed by that law enforcement agency.” These investigations must be conducted by at least two investigators, with one lead investigator certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board as a “Lead Homicide Investigator,” or have certain similar training. No investigator involved in the investigation may be employed by the local law enforcement agency that employs the officer involved in the officer-involved death.

If the officer-involved death being investigated involves a motor vehicle accident, at least one investigator must certified by the Board as a “Crash Reconstruction Specialist,” or have certain similar training, and in this case the law enforcement agency may use of an investigator who is employed by that law enforcement agency.

The investigators are required to expeditiously provide a complete report to the State's Attorney of the county in which the officer-involved death occurred. If the State's Attorney, or a designated special prosecutor, determines there is no basis to prosecute the law enforcement officer involved in the officer-involved death, or if the law enforcement officer is not otherwise charged or indicted, the investigators must publicly release a report.

Law enforcement agencies are still permitted to conduct internal investigations into officer-involved deaths, if the internal investigation does not interfere with the independent investigation required under the Act. Additionally, compensation for participation in an independent investigation the independent investigation can be determined by an intergovernmental or inter-agency agreement.

Post Authored by Daniel J. Bolin and Ellen K. Emery, Ancel Glink


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