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COPA: Evaluating Bias in Police Complaints

Police officers in Chicago are disciplined for misconduct after a complaint against the officer is ruled sustained. Complaints can source from an investigation by an external-civilian oversight agency. In Chicago, this is the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Reforms to this external-civilian oversight agency occurred following the Laquan McDonald shooting; however, no rigorous statistical evidence has been produced evaluating the effectiveness of these reforms.


A team of researchers from the Paul Douglas Institute reconstructed a prior study’s multinomial logistic regression (Headley, D’Alessio, and Stolzenberg 2017), and then applied it to Chicago police misconduct complaint data, obtained from the Invisible Institute, from 2008 to 2018. The study attempted to quantify how the race of the complainant affects the likelihood that his or her misconduct complaint is sustained.


In Spring 2019, the team presented the recommendations from their report to COPA, and additionally at a conference at Northwestern University. The student-team continues to be in ongoing conversations with the Office in their policy reform work. 

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