CHICAGO — The Civilian Office of Police Accountability hopes to provide locals with a better understanding of what they do by opening their doors to the public as part of a new six-week training program. 

“This is the first time we’ve ever taken our training academy and broken it down for the public,” said Andrea Kersten, COPA’s chief administrator. “People know about COPA releasing a video or they may know about an investigation but a lot of times, our work goes on in silence.” 

COPA is tasked with investigating complaints against CPD officers, ranging anywhere from alleged excessive force to coercion.  

COPA’s chief administrator Andrea Kersten (Photo: WGN)

“This is our opportunity to explain that process, to communicate to the public the why behind when we can and can’t share information, Kersten said.  

To explain how they get the job done, COPA is launching the People’s Academy on Tuesday, March 21. The multiweek program will be taught by experts in the field and includes topics such as:

  • History of Civilian Oversight of Policing
  • Introduction to Officer-Involved Shooting/Death Investigations
  • Witness Reliability-Legal Concepts Overview-Standards of Proof
  • Analyzing Video–Use of Force Investigative Tools
  • Policy Research & Analyses Division (PRAD)

“What it is is sort of a mini condensed version of the training,” Kersten said. “Our staff goes through to take on the task of investigating police misconduct.” 

It’s all happening at the brand-new police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park from 6-8 p.m. every Tuesday through April 25. Anyone unable to attend the training in person may do so virtually by clicking here.

The end goal, Kersten says, is a more transparent understanding of the objectivity sought by COPA.

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“What’s really important is making sure that more and more people, here in the city, know who we are, know what we do, so when we are canvassing in the neighborhood after an officer-involved shooting and we’re knocking on doors and we’re asking people to trust us with their information, they understand who we are and what we do,” Kersten said.