Chicago, IL – A former investigator with Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which became the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), has filed a lawsuit that claimed he was told to lie to make an officer-involved shooting look unjustified.
On Sunday, Kelvin Lett filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago, COPA, IPRA, AFSCME Local 654, Council 31, and others that alleged former IPRA administrator Sharon Fairley had told him that he needed to lie and have a more “devious mind” to do his job, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lett became an investigator for the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) in 1997, according to his lawsuit. He continued in the same position when OPS became IPRA. IPRA eventually became COPA.
After Fairley came on board as IPRA administrator, things changed dramatically, according to Lett’s suit, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lett’s lawsuit claimed that in June of 2016, Fairley ordered him “to alter his reports so as to lie about his findings on a particular case regarding an officer-involved shooting of a civilian.”
He alleged that Fairley said Lett “had to have a more ‘devious mind’ to do this job and that he needed to lie about his findings in such a way to reflect that the officer shooting was unjustified,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The lawsuit said Fairley “ordered Lett to lie in his reports that a gun was planted on the victim by the officers involved in the shooting,” and that “Lett protested and refused to do so because he had no evidence to support that finding.”
Two weeks later, Fairley accused the seasoned investigator of disclosing confidential information and transferred Lett into a janitorial position while she opened an investigation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lett explained that the animosity from Fairley and other administrators stemmed from a 2012 incident when a man who he knew personally was beaten by officers in a jail cell, according to WGN.
Fairley accused Lett of having given the family inside information, including the fact that a jailhouse video of the incident existed.
The Coleman family reached a $5 million settlement with Chicago, WGN reported.
According to the lawsuit, Fairley terminated Lett in February of 2017 after her investigation determined that Lett had violated the IPRA policy.
Fairley resigned from IPRA that fall and announced her candidacy for Illinois Attorney General. She was defeated in the Democratic primary.
Lett filed a grievance through AFSCME, and IPRA was ordered to reinstate Lett with back pay and expunge his record.
However, Lett’s lawsuit said he was reinstated but immediately placed on administrative leave with pay, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Although he was assigned to the Chicago Police Department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, Lett “was never actually allowed to return to work,” the lawsuit said.
He said his union never tried to enforce the arbitrator’s ruling, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lett has claimed his firing “was entirely pretextual” and retaliation for his refusal to lie about the officer-involved shooting.
In a statement to WGN, Lett's attorney Cass Casper said, "we believe the evidence will show that what happened to my client is not an isolated case and is a product of a political agenda, and we are looking forward to our day in court."
Lori Lightfoot, the former head of the OPS under Mayor Richard Dailey, was also mentioned in the lawsuit, although she was not named as a defendant, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lightfoot, who is challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in November’s election, is a former federal prosecutor who was appointed by Emanuel to head the Task Force on Police Accountability that was created in the wake of the Laquan McDonald investigation.
The lawsuit claimed that Lightfoot told then-IPRA head Scott Ando she “wanted to fire that motherf--ker Lett” in December 2015.