Three years ago, an Independent Police Review Authority investigator named Lorenzo Davis lost his job. Davis has long alleged he was fired because he refused to change his findings in a number of controversial police shooting cases where he had found against the officers involved. He is currently suing the city of Chicago over his dismissal.
Emails obtained by NBC5 Investigates through an open records request reveal the ouster of Davis from the IPRA ranks had been contemplated for months. Superiors accused him of clear bias, and of “cherry picking” facts in controversial cases. When his dismissal finally happened in July of 2015, it sparked a maelstrom of controversy.
And the emails suggest that the actual timing of Davis’s firing was no accident.
“Firing him has been in the works for almost a year,” IPRA administrator Scott Ando wrote the mayor’s press secretary, Adam Collins. “I’m glad I intentionally waited until after the election to fire him.”
The election, a hotly-contested race between Mayor Emanuel and challenger Chuy Garcia, was decided in April. Davis was fired three months later.
Three different current or former city department heads recalled a mayoral cabinet meeting in the weeks prior to the election, where Emanuel urged his lieutenants not to make any waves in their individual departments. Two of those officials told NBC5 they specifically recalled the mayor’s remarks. The third said he did not remember Emanuel’s actual comments, but said he remembered that sentiment as being the overall theme of the meeting.
“I created a big controversy,” Davis told NBC 5. “A big storm within the community when the information began to get out.”
While that controversy was certainly not welcome at City Hall, mayoral press secretary Collins insisted Ando was not doing the mayor’s bidding and that no one told him to hold off on firing Davis until after the election.
“Mr. Ando was clearly talking about a personnel decision he himself had made,” Collins said in an emailed statement. “I can’t speak for why he would think it would ever be appropriate to apply a political judgment to his decision-making process or what was going through his head. And Mr. Ando is no longer employed by the city.”
The actual email chain reveals that Ando had wanted to engage with WBEZ reporter Chip Mitchell, who had inquired about the Davis firing, but that his proposed response was squelched by City Hall.
“I don’t understand the fear of responding at this point since we are getting clobbered locally,” he wrote. “And since we didn’t nip it in the bud with Chip at the start, nationally.”
“Here’s what I would like to give Chip—the truth,” Ando wrote. “Having heard Mr. Davis’ comments in various print and visual media reports, I feel it is necessary for me to respond to his false and baseless allegations.”
Ando went on to say that Davis had dug in his heels about his police findings, despite the fact that other levels of review had found in favor of the officers in question.
“His narrative in the investigations for which we found his findings to be incorrect were based upon incomplete versions of all the available evidence,” Ando wrote. But Collins suggested in a reply that such an explanation would be futile.
“I understand how frustrating it can be to have your work scrutinized by the press,” he wrote, noting “the goal is to minimize any further coverage, because we’re not the most sympathetic entity in this story and as a result it’s highly unlikely we’re convincing anyone.”
Among the cases where Davis ruled against the officer in question, one involving a teenager named Cedrick Chatman yielded a settlement of $3 million.
For his part, Davis says he believes he was a victim of politics on many levels, and that decisions against police officers in heater cases were not welcomed by his superiors.
“Why are you trying to cover this up,” he asked. “Who does it benefit? What does the mayor want? Is this political?”