Two years, an attempted cover-up, and several protests later, justice remains far off for Anjanette Young. In February 2019, White officers broke down her door in a wrongful raid and handcuffed her while she was naked and getting ready for bed. She was left that way––humiliated and harassed.
An investigation conducted by the historically problematic Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) has just wrapped up, still, no officers face serious penalties. Despite a city that has made its systemic racism crystal clear and a current Black mayor who critics say are strangling the efforts for justice–Ms. Young and her supporters are bent on going after what is justly due.
On May 14, the Chicago Police Department announced new policy changes in response to the raid conducted in Ms. Young’s home. The changes, which are set to go into effect May 28, include safeguards for how officers obtain search warrants. According to the Chicago Tribune, the policy requires a member of the police department who is at the rank of lieutenant or above to be at the scene when the warrant is executed.
It also requires that each member of the team serving the warrant wear body cameras. Furthermore, a female member of the department must be present while the warrant is being presented. The policy also adds more steps to the review process before and after a search, requiring several supervisors, including a deputy chief, to review a warrant served on a property where people could be present.
Unusual warrants, such as the “John Doe” warrant and no-knock warrants, are also addressed in the new policy, saying they must be authorized by bureau chiefs. John Doe warrants are based on anonymous tips that have been verified. No-knock warrants allow officers to enter the property without notification to those inside. The reviews also call for the information used to secure the warrant to be verified and calls for special conditions that may be present to be considered, such as whether or not children are expected in the property.
According to the Chicago Tribune, this policy has been in the works for months. It also includes language that says all department members will treat people with “courtesy and dignity” and “act in accordance with the Constitution of the United States of America.” City officials say the new policy reflects efforts as part of the department’s court-mandated reform of practices, which is being overseen by a federal judge.
Police probe hardly yields results
In May, COPA finished its 16-month long investigation into the botched raid of Ms. Young’s home. According to a release sent out by the office, investigators looked into Chicago Police Department members’ actions regarding “the acquisition and execution of the search warrant at Ms. Young’s home.”
After conducting more than 30 interviews, COPA says it found deficiencies in training and policy when it comes to officers obtaining and carrying out search warrants. The investigation also found nearly 100 allegations of misconduct from the actions of more than a dozen officers.
Former COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts, who also announced her resignation in early May, called the raid “painful to watch.”
“While we cannot fully heal the pain Ms. Young experienced on that day and ever since, we hope that our investigation and recommendations will enable the healing process,” Ms. Roberts said in the office’s release.
One of the first questions that comes to mind: What is taking so long?
“There’s a long history of COPA taking extraordinarily long amounts of time to investigate cases of police complaints or complaints against police and the sort of delays we’re seeing, unfortunately, are not unique to Ms. Young,” said Nusrat Choudhury, legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
“This investigation needs to be wrapped up, it needs to be handled thoroughly and carefully but also quickly in order to make sure that justice is done and there’s accountability for people who didn’t do the right thing, and lead to this kind of harm against Ms. Young.”
Carolyn Ruff, an activist based in Chicago, says the officers involved need to face strict penalties.
“They all should be fired,” she said.
“Instead of giving all of these police desk jobs, we’re still paying them taxpayers money. I think that they should be fired. Until further notice,” stressed Ms. Ruff.
The city previously said the 12 officers involved in the raid had been placed on desk duty.
Ms. Ruff, like many, are feeling increasingly angry at the slowness of the investigation and justice. The agencies involved even raised eyebrows at some of the internal moves being made with Ms. Roberts’ resignation being one of them.
“I would say good riddance to Sydney Roberts,” said Eric Russell, founder of Tree of Life Justice League, an organization advocating for police accountability. “Her unceremoniously stepping down, you know, we think that, you know, some scandal was coming, and plus she was ineffective.”
Ms. Roberts’ decision to step down comes after Mayor Lightfoot made it known how disappointed she was in COPA’s handling of Ms. Young’s case and a number of other wrongful raids carried out by the Chicago Police Department.
Ms. Roberts did not give a reason for her resignation, neither did she state when it would take effect. Mayor Lightfoot said she did not ask for Ms. Roberts’ resignation, according to a local CBS affiliate.
However, as Mayor Lightfoot points the finger at COPA, millions of Chicagoans are pointing the finger at her. As someone who ran her mayoral campaign on real police reform, critical Chicagoans say her treacherous history of being a police apologist and her dishonest handling of Ms. Young’s case is a betrayal to the Black community.
‘The mayor is a liar’
Mayor Lightfoot began this case on the wrong foot.
Before the video of the wrongful raid was publicized, Mayor Lightfoot and her administration attempted to block a local CBS station from airing the video. Ms. Young filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the footage, as well as the CBS Chicago TV station. Both requests were denied. According to the news station, Ms. Young obtained the footage after a court forced the Chicago Police Department to turn it over as part of her lawsuit against police.
Mayor Lightfoot’s hypocrisy has led to a major betrayal of trust of the people of Chicago, said some.
“Mayor Lightfoot, you know … all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,” Mr. Russell said. “You would just think, you know, a mayor who’s in many respects, let’s say a triple minority herself––being a woman, Black, lesbian––would have some sort of compassion for the trials and tribulations that [Ms. Young] went through. But Mayor Lightfoot, she was the catalyst of, you know, doing everything she could to suppress this video.”
Not only did the mayor seek to keep the video from getting out, but reports show she may have also lied about having known about the incident beforehand. A Chicago ABC affiliate reported she received detailed emails about what had happened to Ms. Young prior to the video’s release.
Mr. Russell says this speaks to her character.
“First and foremost, the mayor is a liar,” he said. “And she is, for all practical purposes, a police apologist, just given her history.”
Prior to taking the top job in the city of Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot was appointed as president of the Chicago Police Board by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in June 2015 and was approved by the city’s council in July 2015. She also served as chair of the Police Accountability Task Force.
Through his organization, Mr. Russell says he represents about 40 families who have been affected by police brutality. He says over the years he brought about 25 families to Mayor Lightfoot for victim impact statements during her time at the police board. He described her as being dismissive and never holding officers accountable.
“Those of us who understand her Napoleonic style of rule, she’s a former prosecutor, she’s a lawyer, she’s hands on,” he said. “There’s nothing that goes on that she doesn’t know about. And for her to publicly lie and do a community appeasement dog and pony show about it, it just really insulted the intelligence of the Black community.”
Kofi Ademola, an adult adviser with Good Kids Mad City Chicago, also says the mayor’s history speaks against her.
“She would hear stories all the time, or people coming up to her, telling her about the wrongs that Chicago police had committed against [them]. And she was completely cold hearted and oblivious to any complaints folks had to say,” he said.
Attempts at holding police accountable have fallen flat under Mayor Lightfoot, and beyond.
A Chicago Police Accountability Council proposed in a 2016 ordinance would put oversight of the police department and other entities into the hands of the community. Mayor Lightfoot has opposed council. According to Block Club Chicago, a local news outlet, the mayor was open to a partnership with the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.
The alliance has been criticized for keeping the same problematic structures of the Chicago Police Department, and for “not going far enough.” Block Club Chicago also reports Mayor Lightfoot supported the alliance since her days on the Police Accountability Task Force. After this years-long battle, the two rival groups have now merged, creating an ordinance for police accountability dubbed the people’s ordinance.
“Chicago is uniquely situated that in over 30 years of police killing Black people, and Brown people, Jon Burge and his team torturing hundreds and hundreds of Black and Brown men … The criminal legal system does little for accountability. The fact that in over 30 years, Jason Van Dyke was the only person to ever be convicted of murdering someone as a Chicago officer,” said Mr. Ademola.
Jon Burge was the former commander of the Chicago Police Department who was accused of torturing more than 200 innocent men for confessions between 1972 and 1991. Jason Van Dyke is the former Chicago police officer convicted of murdering Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black male, who was shot 16 times while walking away from police.
Now, an ordinance proposed in Anjanette Young’s name faces similar pushback from Mayor Lightfoot. The ordinance, introduced by five female aldermen in February, was put together by Black and Brown Chicagoans and community organizations, Ms. Choudhury said. She says it would ban no-knock warrants, and has other provisions that would protect against the pointing of guns at young people and more.
On the Chicago Office of the City Clerk’s website, the Anjanette Young ordinance remains in the “introduced” status.
“The ordinance does so much to solve the problems that the video on the raid of Ms. Young reveal, but the city has not indicated their position on the ordinance,” Ms. Choudhury said. “It looks like they’re blocking the ordinance. Both the consent decree, and this ordinance are really calling on the city to engage with community organizations to solve problems, and by not meeting with community organizations, the city is suggesting that these communities don’t have real expertise and input to give, even when they’re the communities that are impacted by wrong raids and impacted by this kind of police harm.”
Mr. Ademola says the ordinance is very watered down.
“It’s very palatable to somebody from a liberal perspective, like [the mayor] should definitely be backing it. But the fact is that Lightfoot and her cronies are rejecting it … and then trying to undermine it by saying, oh, we’re going to come up with our own version,” he said. “So yeah, there is always going to be this protection for police. Because they need policing to be legitimate.”
Mayor Lightfoot’s announcement of reform came just days after the Anjanette Young Ordinance was introduced. The reform focused on what happens before, during and after raids.
According to the Chicago CBS affiliate, Mayor Lightfoot first announced reforms in January 2020, but an investigative report found instances where officers did not follow the policy and bad raids continued to happen.
CBS Chicago reported that Keenan Saulter, Ms. Young’s attorney, said Mayor Lightfoot’s proposal “falls woefully short of the types of reforms that the citizens of Chicago require to feel secure in their homes from these violent and wrongful raids.”
Mr. Saulter was not available for comment to The Final Call.
Carrying a ‘heavy burden’
Mr. Russell, who has worked with Ms. Young through his organization, says she deserves a lot of credit.
“She was just fearless about the pursuit for justice, because before all of this became public, she had to file a Freedom of Information Act and lawsuits to get the release of the video, and even before a lot of us even knew about this, this sister was carrying a heavy burden,” he said.
Ms. Choudhury echoes that sentiment.
“Ms. Young is extraordinarily courageous for sharing her story, for understanding that the video of the raid that she experienced is painful, I’m sure, for her to watch as well as for others to watch, including Black and Brown Chicagoans who have seen similar experiences in their own communities. And I just hope that the pain and the trauma that she’s endured can result in some kind of lasting change for the better of communities,” she said.
Ms. Young has been on the frontline of her own case, pushing for the ordinance in her name to be passed and for the officers to be held accountable.
When speaking about the ordinance during a virtual town hall, Ms. Young told listeners, “You know, my name is on it. This started because of my experience. But this is larger than Anjanette Young.”
In the fight for police accountability throughout the city, Mr. Russell says Black Chicagoans never put much faith in COPA and the several organizations with different acronyms that came before it.
“We’re tired of playing the alphabet soup game,” he said. “All sorts of professional standards, internal review board, blah blah blah, you know, whatever the acronym stands for, but at the end of the day isn’t doing justice for Black and Brown people.
“We’re just asking for Black people to be treated with a certain amount of dignity, respect and respectfully engaged,” he goes on to say. “You know we’re not anti-police, we’re just anti bad police. We want the police to uphold the law while they enforce the law.”
Ms. Young continues to wait for the city to make a settlement offer in her lawsuit against them. CBS Chicago reports that the city has used taxpayer dollars to hire private, outside counsel in the case. The station also reports a statement from the city said, Mayor Lightfoot “remains committed to continuing to address the actions surrounding any litigation … so that Ms. Young can continue her process of healing and move forward.”
“Weeks ago, the city provided Mr. Saulter with a fair and just pathway to resolution,” the statement continued. “The city asked that mediation be considered and offered to pay all associated costs and fees. Mr. Saulter stated he would not agree to mediation absent conditions.”
Mr. Saulter told the CBS affiliate he has made previously multiple settlement demands, but won’t agree to mediation until the city first makes a settlement offer.