City and state officials were taken aback on Friday by allegations that an officer at one of the police facilities may have had s*xual contact with at least one of the migrants who have been housed there for months after being bused in from Texas. A migrant being held in a West Side police station has accused at least one officer of s*xual assault after a complaint was filed Thursday with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
COPA First Deputy Chief Administrator Ephraim Eaddy stated in a statement released on Friday that the agency had notified CPD internal affairs after receiving the complaint against “members” of the department.
“While COPA investigators are currently determining whether the facts and details of this allegation are substantiated, we want to assure the public that all allegations of this nature are of the highest priority and COPA will move swiftly to address any misconduct by those involved,” Eaddy said in the statement.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) confirmed late Thursday that it had begun an internal inquiry into allegations that an officer had s*xual contact with migrants being kept at the Ogden District station. That area includes both Little Village and Lawndale. Migrants staying at the station said they were shifted on Friday to a Tribune reporter, though the reporter did not have access to many details of the charges.
The tweet below verifies the news:
COPA acknowledges complaint against Chicago police officer for alleged sex with migrant housed at station; Gov. Pritzker calls matter ‘horrific,’ if true https://t.co/oO83zDHXZj
— Chicago Breaking News (@ChicagoBreaking) July 7, 2023
In a statement, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office described the incident as “deeply troubling.” “New arrivals are being moved to temporary shelters in current operation, with full relocation to be completed by tomorrow morning,” a statement from the administration read.
According to those familiar with the internal inquiry, it was also examined to see if any of the migrants suspected of involvement were underage. When asked if any officers had been relieved of their police powers or when the inquiry had begun, a CPD representative did not provide any information.
Late on Friday, the Johnson administration verified that detail of the case. “The Johnson administration remains intensely focused on the deeply troubling allegations of s*xual misconduct by a Chicago Police Department officer against a minor new arrival, and other allegations of s*xual misconduct in the Chicago Police Department’s 10th District,” the statement read.
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“While this incident is under investigation by the CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the City is committed to providing mental health support and resources to all those in need.” On Friday in Springfield, during a news conference unconnected to the probe, Governor J.B. Pritzker was asked about it and said it would be “horrific” if the allegations were true.
The number of migrants being transferred from police stations, “where they’ve been taking good care of those migrants,” to more permanent refuge or lodging has increased, he added. “In fact, what we’re trying to do is make sure that people get rental assistance so they can go have a real apartment to live in, especially families,” Pritzker said.
“It’s a terrible thing and I hope there’s a full investigation as fast as possible, and if there is wrongdoing they ought to be held accountable immediately.” Pritzker and his Democratic allies in the Illinois General Assembly set aside $42.5 million to help migrants across the state as part of the $50.4 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Johnson’s government has prioritized alleviating the condition of urban migrants. The migrants, who come primarily from Central America and Venezuela, have been transported by bus from Texas to Chicago and other major cities across the United States. Meanwhile, the city has been at a loss as to where to put them.
Since April, hundreds of migrants have made temporary homes in CPD’s 22 district stations and many other city-owned or otherwise abandoned structures, occasionally incurring the ire of neighboring residents. As word of the dire conditions at Chicago’s homeless shelters spread, many migrants have taken refuge in police stations.
More than 5,000 migrants are currently staying in city shelters, according to city officials this week, while another 800 are waiting to be placed at police stations. On Friday, the three councilors representing Ogden District issued a statement in which they promised to take “appropriate disciplinary and legal actions against the officers involved” if the claims were proven true.
Those staying at the Ogden station said they found out about the charges on Friday when they saw TV news crews. “The officers don’t even speak to us,” said David Hernandez. His loved ones and a handful of other people were trapped inside the station between blue police barricades and yellow crime scene tape on the windows. The vast majority of people simply laid down on the ground.
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U.S. Representative Jess “Chuy” Garca issued a statement calling the alleged behavior “unacceptable.” “Our migrant neighbors came to Chicago seeking safety and stability,” Garcia said.
“Police officers are sworn to protect our communities, not engage in illegal s*xual conduct with teenagers and others in their care. This alleged behavior is completely unacceptable. I expect the city’s investigation to be timely, thorough, transparent, and lead to accountability for all who are found guilty.” Representing the 22nd district, Alderman Michael Rodriguez said, “allegations of this sort should be taken very seriously and they should be fully investigated.”
“We are a welcoming city for migrants, and we need to make sure that our public officials and public spaces are held accountable to honoring this value,” Rodriguez added. Karla Urbina, a migrant from Nicaragua, stayed at a Chicago police station for over a month. She said that officers often subjected her to verbal and physical assault.
Although she is not residing in a shelter, this mother has joined forces with volunteers to aid other asylum-seekers who have recently arrived. “Many have no respect for us, they see us as objects,” she added. She claimed that not only women but all migrants were treated poorly by some cops, who hurled insults, gave dirty glances, and invaded what little privacy the migrants had.
Even if the abuse is s*xual in nature, she said, most people will not disclose it for fear of being expelled from the institution or shelter. “We can’t afford to do that,” Urbina said. Therapist and certified clinical social worker Susie Moya established a group to help migrating women. She noted that many people have similar traumatic experiences (such as s*xual assault, the death of a loved one, or family separation), but that getting help is difficult.
She emphasized her efforts to win their confidence. Moya emphasized the difficulty of opening up because most people lack experience with mental health care. “Trauma affects these asylum-seekers psychologically and physically; that trauma influences their way of thinking and the choices they make,” Moya said. “It is an overall loss of power and control, instilling fear while they are trying to survive.”
Around 30 protesters and local politicians gathered outside the Ogden district on Friday night to speak, hold signs, and scream. “Guilty cops don’t talk!” Cops who keep quiet are cops who commit crimes!” said one such message. Many of them visited eight different nations. They have been robbed, raped, and battered. And here we go and do it again?
“How they could have let this happen is beyond me,” said Baltazar Enriquez, head of the Little Village Community Council, who has been providing relief to the migrant families. Protesters wanted Pritzker to call a “special session” to discuss the issue and for the names of the officer(s) under investigation to be made public. They also wanted an immediate meeting with COPA.
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The mayor’s office has complied with one of the demands of the 10th Police District Council, according to Kiisha Smith, who serves on the council. The mayor’s office has ordered all migrants to leave the 10th District police station by Friday at 4 p.m. Their whereabouts after that were uncertain.
“If any of the allegations are found to be true and fact we will take charge and attempt to hold them accountable for their actions, most definitely,” Smith said. 24th Ward Alderwoman Monique Scott, whose district includes the 10th District’s police station, has advised her constituents to remain patient while the inquiry is ongoing.
”Right now, they are just accusations. So my heart goes out to the people that are involved and the officers because we don’t know the validity of the truth right now, correct?” she said on a phone call with the Tribune Friday night. “I would encourage anybody in my ward to sit back and wait and don’t jump to conclusions, don’t jump on a side, wait for the results and wait to see what the investigation turns out to be.”
The website CaliforniaExaminer.net is a great resource for keeping up with the news and providing some food for thought.