Page 10 - February 2021
P. 10

First Vice President’s Report
Protecting our constitutional rights
 At the end of January, I had the pleasure of sitting in on an arbitration hearing for an unfair labor practice charge against the wonderful or- ganization called COPA. COPA has been violating our contract and its own policies when it comes to interviewing accused officers in CR investiga- tions.
Our contract under 6.1 (I) clearly states what rights our officers will be afforded, depending on the allegations and circumstances of the case.
In most situations, BIA and/or COPA will give officers their administrative rights prior to any statements being made. In the rare times that an accused officer has the probability of finding him or herself being charged criminally, they are to be read their constitutional rights.
This is a provision of the contract that has been around for decades and never been challenged. That is, until the dis- graced Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) was “dis- banded” and renamed the Civilian Office of Police Account- ability back in 2017. When IPRA was near its death, every notable city head complained about the ability of the orga- nization to complete competent investigations. We all know Chicago is the land of smoke and mirrors. Renaming IPRA as COPA was nothing but an attempt to put lipstick on a pig and call it anything but.
In this late January arbitration hearing, I was able to watch our Lodge 7 attorney Pat Fioretto do his thing. This was the second time I was able to watch Pat in action during a hear- ing. It was amazing to watch how precise and calculated he was in presenting his case to arbitrator George Roumell Jr.
Our major claim was that COPA has unilaterally changed our contract by not giving our members their rights, as pro- vided by not only our contract but the U.S. Constitution. As I have already pointed out, this has never been an issue in the past. In most cases where an officer was involved in a case that was under criminal investigation, or even if that was a possibility, COPA’s predecessors (OPS, IPRA) and BIA would wait on taking a formal statement from the accused officer until the conclusion of the criminal case or a declina- tion by the State’s Attorney’s Office. One might ask, what has changed?
Well, that question was answered only a few minutes into the City’s defense of our ULP charge against COPA. The one and only witness called by the City’s attorney, Dave Johnson, was COPA’s Chief of Investigative Operations Andrea Kersten. Kersten was brought on during the final year of IPRA and stayed on for the insurgence of the COPA.
During her testimony, her defense of our claims was shock- ing, to say the least. I expected a laundry list of excuses and a
worthy defense of COPA’s inactions. I got neither. According to Chief Kersten, COPA never gives constitutional rights to of- ficers it is investigating. She had not one valid reason to deny our members their rights clearly outlined in the CBA, rights which have been a part of our CBA with the City for a lot lon- ger than Chief Kersten has been around.
I know, I know. None of this surprises any one of you read- ing this. But wait, there’s more! Remember, COPA is supposed to be an independent and unbiased organization (let me know when you stop laughing), conducting itself in the same manor the public expects any one of our officers to conduct themselves. During Chief Kersten’s direct testimony, she be- gan talking about accused officers and how COPA investi- gates the accusations. Nothing nefarious there, right? Call me skeptical if you must, but at one point, Chief Kersten referred to accused officers as “target” officers. That’s right, target of- ficers.
Call me cynical, call me crazy, but the way Chief Kersten nonchalantly used this term to describe the officers her agen- cy investigates left a bad taste in my mouth. If the chief of investigative operations was comfortable enough to use that term during a recorded hearing, what does she say when out- siders to her agency are not around? How can any one of us expect the administrative part of COPA to be fair in determin- ing the outcome of an investigation?
I know this is just one member of the administration over there at COPA, and we shouldn’t paint the whole organization with a broad brush. Over the last nine-plus months, I have had the opportunity to speak with many of the investigators at COPA. All have been helpful and willing to work with the Lodge and our attorneys. But an administration that seems to have a preconceived belief that our members are their “tar- gets” should give everyone pause.
In closing, I would like to bring up an issue that seems to be occurring more and more these days. Please keep an eye out for one another. We are one big blue family, and we need to do a better job of watching out for our brothers and sisters. There is no reason to suffer in silence when dealing with inner de- mons. Whether it is alcohol, drug or PTSD issues, please find someone to talk with. There are many avenues to go down to seek the help you might need. If you find yourself feeling you can’t find the help you are looking for, please reach out to us attheLodge,andwecanhelpyoufindotheroutlets.EAP,Peer Support and the chaplains are always available. We are here for you!
Stay safe and healthy.

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