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Chicago police watchdog inaccurately reported shooting incidents: official

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The agency tasked with reviewing all shootings involving Chicago police officers inaccurately reported use of force, the city’s inspector general said on Tuesday.

A protester walks past a line of police officers standing guard in front of the District 1 police headquarters in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Frank Polich

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said in a 13-page report that the Independent Police Review Authority’s (IPRA) public reporting of incidents involving officers who fired their weapons was incomplete and inaccurate.

From September 2007 to September 2014, IPRA reported 344 shootings in which someone was struck by a bullet and 291 shootings in which no one was struck. Those figures over-reported so-called hit shootings by four and under-reported non-hit shootings by 49, according to the inspector general’s report.

The inspector general said the inconsistencies in IPRA’s reporting erode public trust and make it difficult to build a strong relationship with the community and improve public safety.

“As part of this transformational period in police oversight in Chicago, detailed and comprehensive use-of-force reporting is crucial to fostering public trust,” Ferguson said in a statement.

The report also found that IPRA had no record of having investigated six shootings that occurred or 14 uses of a Taser stun gun in recent years. It is unclear whether the police department failed to notify IPRA or if the agency did not record the incidents.

Chicago police face a federal probe following the release of dashboard video showing the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald, 17, by a white police officer. The shooting sparked citywide protests and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down and a complete overhaul of the department and watchdog agency.

Emanuel fired Chicago’s police chief and the former director of IPRA in December.

IPRA was formed in 2007 to investigate problems in t Chicago’s police force, and it has long handled public complaints about the police’s excessive use of force. Plagued by budget and staffing shortages, it has been criticized for taking too long to investigate shootings and for finding almost all of them justified.

Emanuel has pledged to abolish and replace the agency.

Sharon Fairley, IPRA’s chief administrator, said in a response to the report that many of the inaccuracies were due to the lack of transparency in the police department, which she said should share the blame.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department is reviewing the report. But current practice is that all use of force incidents are reported to IPRA.

Fairley also said she recognized IPRA’s past failures and said the agency is working to “ensure that we have the appropriate personnel and technological resources to address our data management and reporting needs going forward.”

Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by Leslie Adler