The late CPD Officer Ella French.

The late CPD Officer Ella French.

‘They tried to taint Ella’s legacy’

Aldermen furious with mayor, COPA chief

By Tim Hadac

The three aldermen representing Clearing and Garfield Ridge are among 20 City Council members opposing the appointment of Andrea Kersten as the next Chief Administrator of Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Kersten, the current interim chief of COPA, came under fire recently for releasing a report recommending a three-day suspension for CPD Officer Ella French.

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The late CPD Officer Ella French.

The report sparked outrage among many because French is dead.

She died in the line of duty in early August after she was shot in the face during a traffic stop near 63rd and Bell.

The COPA report had been finalized last April. It concerned the conduct of CPD officers taking part in a raid of the South Side home of social worker Anjanette Young in early 2019. The raid was botched, as CPD broke into the wrong dwelling unit.

In that raid, French reportedly failed to activate her body camera in a timely manner and failed to do the paperwork on an investigatory stop of a suspect outside the residence.

Young, who was initially forced to stand naked and handcuffed while police on scene tried to sort out the situation, is suing the city over the raid. She later said French was the only officer on scene who treated her with dignity. French led Young into a bedroom, so Young could have a bit of privacy while she was released from handcuffs and allowed to get dressed.

When the report was released earlier this month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot publicly called Kersten “tone deaf”—but days later, nominated her as permanent COPA chief.

“Andrea Kersten is a longtime and dedicated public servant who brings a lifetime of relevant experience and subject matter expertise to the role of Chief Administrator,” Lightfoot said. “During her time as interim-Chief Administrator, Andrea has done incredible work leading the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, including completing the backlog of inherited open investigations of Chicago’s prior civilian oversight agency, IPRA. At a time when independent and civilian-led police accountability have never been more important, I have the utmost confidence in Andrea’s ability to lead COPA with transparency, integrity, and dedication to the office’s important role.”

A second wave of outrage—this time directed squarely at the mayor—came immediately after the mayor’s announcement.Screen Shot 2021 11 25 at 4.44.53 PM

Aldermen Silvana Tabares (23rd), Marty Quinn (13th) and Edward M. Burke (14th) all signed a Nov. 16 to the mayor, stating they are “vehemently opposed” to Kersten’s nomination.

“In these days of civil unrest and rising crime, we need someone at the helm of COPA who possesses the emotional and practical intelligence to navigate the many volatile situations that they will face in this role,” the aldermen wrote. “The City is having significant trouble maintain adequate numbers on its police force. As a result, crime is on the rise and people do not feel safe on our streets on in their own homes.

“Morale is low, tensions are running high, and COPA releases a report tainting the legacy of fallen Officer French and recommending disciplinary action against her?…All this report does is further alienate our Chicago Police officers at a time when it is imperative that begin rebuilding their trust in this administration and in the people who are supposed to have their backs.”

Tabares took it a step further, writing a letter directly to Kersten.

“Your report tells every officer that even in death, you stand ready to pass judgment for actions in circumstances you will never face,” the alderman said, in part. “This is about honor, decency and recognizing true honor, heroism and sacrifice. Your office has shown none and has attempted to sully the name of one who has.”

Kersten’s nomination was referred to the Council’s Rules Committee, where it currently sits. Whether it will make it out of committee and brought to the floor for a vote remains to be seen.

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