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Inspector general finds shortcomings in how Chicago Police Department supports officers involved in shootings

An evaluation by the city’s inspector general of mandatory training for Chicago police officers involved in shootings found that not all department members complete the requirements before returning to the street.

The report released Tuesday by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office examined 52 cases since February 2017 and June 2018 when an officer had discharged their weapon, a review done in an attempt to discern whether the department is following its own guidelines requiring that officers involved in shootings be reassigned to administrative duty for 30 days.

During that period, the officer is supposed to complete a trauma debriefing with a department counselor and attend another eight-hour course on stress and coping, which also includes a session at the shooting range so officers can get reaccustomed to firing their weapons. Lastly, there was supposed to be individualized training developed for the officers involved.

Of the 52 cases examined, which included both on- and off-duty shootings, the inspector general could not document that 11 out of the 52 had completed the debrief portion, according to the report, while 10 had not completed the eight-hour training.

All failed to take part in individualized training, because it was unclear to both the office of the first deputy superintendent, which oversees the department’s return-to-work policy, and the Education and Training Division that officers had to do this, Ferguson’s office found.

“Personnel from ETD ... stated that they did not believe individualized training was mandatory before OIG’s inquiry and had not received guidance on the intended purpose of the training,” according to the report. “Similarly, OFDS personnel stated that OFDS did not consider individualized training as a return-to-duty requirement before releasing members from administrative duty.”

The evaluation also found documentation deficiencies, training delays that prevented officers from returning to active duty by the 30th day, as well as failures to tailor training to individual officers.

The department, in a response included in the report, agreed to many of Ferguson’s recommendations.

“CPD agrees that the Post-Discharge Firearms protocols should be standardized, and we are working to determine the best way to do this," the report stated.

Counseling and assistance for officers involved in shootings is widely considered a best practice to help them address any trauma experienced before they return to face often high-pressure situations on the street. Officers involved in shootings are more at risk to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, for example, experts have said.

The report also includes a cautionary note, detailing the fates of two officers, who each failed to complete one part of the trainings in the wake of shootings, according to the documents reviewed by the inspector general. One committed suicide, and the second was involved in another shooting a month after the first.

“While these outcomes are a result of a complex set of causes and OIG can not establish a causal link between non-compliance with return-to-duty requirements and these incidents, they highlight the life or death stakes of ensuring that members who discharge their firearms receive the support they need from the department," the report reads.

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