Police Misconduct Defined

At a time when names such as Breonna Taylor’s is on many people’s minds, a research study, recently published by Race and Justice, on the Chicago Police Department helps put it all in perspective.

Police misconduct typically occurs when officers operate outside the legal and ethical boundaries of their police duties. It is problematic for the society because it presents a major roadblock for fostering positive police-community relations. A recent study on police misconduct attempted to examine the effect of a complainant’s race or ethnicity on the dispositional outcome in police misconduct cases.

This study focused on the Chicago Police Department. I should probably mention a few things about the way the Chicago Police Department is organized. Police misconduct complaints are initially received and investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). This agency was created in 2007 by the Chicago City Council and is staffed with civilian investigators. Any police misconduct allegations are dealt with by this agency or referred to the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.

These police misconduct allegations can have four possible dispositional outcomes:

  • sustained
  • not sustained
  • unfounded
  • officer exonerated

Naturally, a citizen who files a complaint desires for the complaint to be sustained. This means there was sufficient evidence to discipline the officer for misconduct in the case.

Police Misconduct Analyzed

If you’re curious, the researchers used multinomial logistic regression to assess the effect of a complainant’s race and ethnicity on the probability of his or her police misconduct allegation receiving an unfavorable outcome. This statistical procedure is appropriate for analyzing a nominal dependent variable with more than two categories.

I say all this to say what you probably already know or suspect. This study indicates the odds of an allegation not being sustained when compared to an allegation being sustained is 4.7 times higher for Black complainants controlling for a variety of factors. By “not sustained”, it is meant it was found there was insufficient evidence to determine the officer’s culpability. In other words, a complainant’s race is an important factor in determining the merit of a police misconduct complaint in Chicago.

One thing I’ll add is this study would not have been possible without exercising one’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act to get the data. I encourage those interested in this issue to add this to their toolbox.

We dedicate this to the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Daniel Prude and so many others.

To cite this article:


HASSAN RIVER ([current_date format=’F d, Y’]) Recently Published Police Misconduct Study Reveals Racial Discrimination against Chicago’s Black Complainants. Retrieved from https://www.hassanriver.com/2020/09/chicago/recently-published-police-misconduct-study-reveals-racial-discrimination-against-chicagos-black-complainants/.


“Recently Published Police Misconduct Study Reveals Racial Discrimination against Chicago’s Black Complainants.” HASSAN RIVER – [current_date format=’F d, Y’], https://www.hassanriver.com/2020/09/chicago/recently-published-police-misconduct-study-reveals-racial-discrimination-against-chicagos-black-complainants/


  1. Headley, Andrea Marie, Stewart J. D’Alessio, and Lisa Stolzenberg. “The effect of a complainant’s race and ethnicity on dispositional outcome in police misconduct cases in Chicago.” Race and justice 10.1 (2020): 43-61.


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