The Chicago Police Department has routinely failed to flag people whom it believes may be mentally unfit to legally carry a gun, raising concerns by the city’s watchdog that the department has missed out on a critical tool to remove guns from those who pose a threat to public safety, according to a new report issued Wednesday.
The oversight is particularly embarrassing for a Police Department consistently pushing the need for stricter gun laws.
The office of city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson conducted the review after receiving a complaint in January 2017 that raised concerns about the Chicago police practice of returning firearms to individuals who had threatened suicide.
Ferguson’s report noted that the state Firearm Owners Identification Card Act required the Police Department to notify Illinois State Police within 24 hours of determining a person posed “a clear and present danger.”
But the Inspector General’s review discovered that only once had that happened in 37 incidents over a recent 3 1/2-year period in which Chicago police confiscated a gun from a person before transporting them to a mental health facility.
What’s more, Ferguson’s office identified only one other instance between December 2013 and April 2017 in which Chicago police notified state police about a FOID card holder considered to be dangerous.
Its failure to comply with the law means the Police Department may be returning firearms to individuals whose FOID cards would otherwise have been revoked by state police, the 14-page report concluded.
Ferguson’s office said Chicago police are overlooking “a key mechanism … to prevent unnecessary gun violence and keep firearms away from those who are not legally entitled to their possession.”
The report comes a week after Chicago police officials said the department was in the midst of revamping its Crisis Intervention Training for officers specially trained to respond to calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis.
A statement issued by the Police Department later Wednesday said it has adopted all the recommendations proposed by the inspector general to fix the oversight.
The department said it “issued an updated general order based on current state law that specifies exactly what police personnel are to do in cases where individuals pose a danger to themselves or others.”
The inspector general’s report came days after similar concerns had been raised after Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old native of downstate Morton, was arrested on charges he fatally shot four and injured four others Sunday at a Waffle House in Nashville.
Last August, after an unarmed Reinking was arrested in a restricted area near the White House, he agreed to transfer an AR-15 rifle and three other weapons he owned to his father, records show. Following the Waffle House shooting, a Nashville police spokesman said the father acknowledged to officials that he gave the weapons back to his son.
Under the Illinois FOID law, a law enforcement official or school administrator must notify state police within 24 hours of determining that a gun owner poses a “clear and present danger” to themselves or others. That can be someone considered violent, suicidal or who makes “assaultive threats,” according to Ferguson’s report, citing the law.
Ferguson’s office said its interviews and review of Police Department records found no department directive advising officers how to determine if citizens posed a threat to themselves or the public. The report also determined that officers were never given any training on how to submit the necessary form — called a “Person Determined to Pose a Clear and Present Danger” form — to alert the state police.
In its report, the inspector general recommended that Chicago police officials train officers on the reporting requirements and what constitutes “a clear and present danger.” It also needs to make the forms accessible for officers.
In response to the findings, the department has added training on the FOID Card Act at the police academy, the report said.
“In a time of continuing high incidence of gun violence in Chicago, and as part of a comprehensive crime strategy, this report highlights an opportunity for CPD to better utilize an important legal mechanism to keep firearms away from those who are not legally entitled to their possession,” the inspector general wrote.
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