Outraged over a Chicago police accountability report that recommended a suspension for slain Officer Ella French, a group of aldermen said Tuesday they “vehemently oppose” Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to lead the police oversight office.
Despite the opposition, Lightfoot announced Tuesday she was naming Andrea Kersten to head the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, hours after 20 aldermen sent her a letter asking her not to do so.
Their opposition stems from the COPA report on the 2019 wrongful police raid at Anjanette Young’s home.
The report, filed last week to the Police Board, recommended that Officer Ella French be suspended for three days because French did not activate her body camera in a timely manner and failed to document her interaction with someone who she and other officers stopped outside of Young’s home on the night of the raid.
The COPA report on the Young raid was completed in April, months before French was killed.
Kersten, who has been serving as interim head of COPA, signed off on the report as chief of investigative operations.
Still, Lightfoot last week said it was “the height of tone deafness” for French’s name to be posthumously included for recommended discipline in the report by COPA, whose mission is to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
But on Tuesday, Lightfoot announced she was nominating Kersten for the role.
“At a time when independent and civilian-led police accountability have never been more important, I have the utmost confidence in Andrea’s ability to lead COPA with transparency, integrity, and dedication to the office’s important role,” the mayor said in a statement.
Hours before Lightfoot made the announcement, aldermen preemptively criticized the nomination.
“Morale is low, tensions are running high, and COPA releases a report tainting the legacy of fallen Officer French and recommending disciplinary action against her?” their letter reads in part.
“Interim Chief Administrator Kersten does not have what it takes to be at the helm of COPA as demonstrated by her release of this report.”
A majority of the 50-member City Council must approve Lightfoot’s nomination of Kersten to head COPA.
Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th, who signed the letter opposing Kersten’s nomination, said Lightfoot will have difficulty getting 26 aldermen to back the pick. “I just think the votes will be there not to support her,” Sposato said, noting some progressive aldermen want a civilian police oversight board to pick the COPA chief instead of the mayor.
A spokesman for COPA could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
After French died, Young herself praised French for her actions during the raid.
“Officer French was the only officer who showed Ms. Young any dignity or respect on the night of the raid,” Young’s attorneys said in a statement after the officer was shot.
And while the 63-page COPA report recommends the suspension for French, it also clears her on six of the eight charges she faced, noting she was one of three officers on the scene who “maintained an appropriate regard for Ms. Young’s dignity.”