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COPA has yet to find victims amid probe into claims of Chicago police having sex with migrants

COPA: No evidence has been presented of police officers' sexual contact with migrants
COPA: No evidence has been presented of police officers' sexual contact with migrants 02:43

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Twelve days after opening a probe into whether police officers had engaged in sexual misconduct with migrants at a West Side police station, investigators said they have yet to substantiate any claims against police, but their investigation remains open, and has led to a similar allegation at a second police station.

Civilian Office of Police Accountability chief administrator Andrea Kersten said that, on July 6, the agency received a report of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving at least one officer at the Ogden (10th) District station.

One specific officer was accused of having sexual contact with an underage migrant girl, while COPA also learned of allegations several other unidentified officers also might have engaged in sexual misconduct with migrants.

Kersten said the original source of those claims remains unknown, but information about the claims had been circulating among Chicago Police Department and Office of Emergency Management and Communications employees.

"To be very clear, we have not yet identified any individual migrant claiming to either have direct knowledge of, or be the victim of any form of sexual misconduct by a member of the Chicago Police Department," Kersten said.

Those allegations became public the same day COPA learned of them, and the Chicago Police Department's internal affairs bureau also opened an investigation the same day.

Sources told CBS 2 previously there are at least four officers involved, and a migrant teen now pregnant, from those alleged encounters. Kersten made no mention of a pregnant migrant during her update on the investigation.

While COPA is continuing its efforts to substantiate exactly what happened and identify the source of the initial allegation, Kersten said the agency has not yet identified any migrants who have claimed to be the victim of sexual assault or any form of sexual misconduct.

"Anytime you're investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct, particularly sensitive in nature, particularly involving a potential perpetrator in a position of trust, those are incredibly powerful barriers to people feeling they can trust a system and come forward and share their experiences," Kersten said. 

COPA has yet to find victims in probe of sexual misconduct claims against CPD officers 02:18

Although the oversight agency has yet to reach any conclusions in its investigation, Kersten said she felt compelled to provide an update on the probe due to the "unprecedented amount of media attention and public scrutiny" the investigation has generated.

As part of their ongoing investigation of the initial sexual misconduct claims, COPA also has received a small number of additional complaints regarding police misconduct with migrants, including an additional allegation of unidentified officers engaging in sexual misconduct with a migrant at the Town Hall (19th) District station.

These are among about two dozens other complaints about the CPD's dealing with migrants.

"The incident involving the 10th District, and now the 19th, are the only that have any sort of sexual misconduct components to them," Kersten said.

Kersten said an investigation into the allegations involving officers at both police stations remains open, and asked anyone with information to contact COPA.

"COPA takes our responsibility to handle these sensitive investigations extremely seriously," Kersten said. "We will continue to take seriously any such allegation, and continue to conduct thorough and comprehensive investigations into all such matters."

Chicago Police have not released the name or names of the officers under investigation, and Kersten said at this point in the investigation, she would not disclose the name of the one specific officer named in allegation so far, or how long that officer has been with the department.

Kersten said, so far, all claims regarding police officers engaging in sexual misconduct with migrants have come from other city employees.

"Given the severity of this allegation, COPA has allocated significant resources to the investigation of this incident," Kersten said.

As for whether her agency has recommended any officers be removed from duty while they investigate, Kersten said her office has insufficient information to make any recommendations regarding any specific officer's duty status.

Aside from the sexual misconduct claims, other complaints COPA has received regarding police misconduct with migrants include allegations of verbal abuse, and potential 4th Amendment violations for migrants who have been arrested since coming to Chicago, though not while inside police stations.

A total of 10 COPA investigators, two supervising investigators, one director of investigations, and two deputy chief administrators are involved in the probe, according to Kersten.

COPA has canvassed 14 migrant shelters in the city, and reached out to migrants through various community groups in an effort to gather information in the case.

The COPA investigation could potentially lead to recommendations of disciplinary action against police officers if the probe is able to substantiate any claims of misconduct, while the CPD internal affairs investigation is a criminal probe that could possibly lead to criminal charges.

Since last summer, more than 11,000 asylum seekers who have entered the U.S. at the border with Mexico have been brought to Chicago, mainly from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott continues to protest the Biden administration's immigration policy by sending migrants to self-proclaimed sanctuary cities.

Abbott has not coordinated his efforts with local officials, or even informed authorities when or how many migrants are coming, leaving the city to scramble to find them shelter space.

The city has set up multiple shelters for the migrants, but still does not have enough room for all of them, leaving hundreds of them to spend their nights sleeping in police stations until space in more appropriate shelters can be found.

Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who stood alongside Kersten at Tuesday's press conference, said he felt it was important as an alderman to make sure migrants and the general public receive updates on the status of the investigation, even if that is simply to tell people the probe is ongoing.

"Part of that commitment to sanctuary is a commitment to securing truth, establishing trust with our new residents with our officers, and taking every allegation – like we're going to discuss today – seriously," La Spata said.

COPA has yet to find any victims in probe of sexual contact with migrants by CPD officers 02:47

But Balthazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, says trust is lacking in his community.

"Historically, COPA and the Police Department have worked together to cover up stories," he said.

Enriquez also says asylum seekers may not trust investigators or police, and stay quiet, out of fear of retaliation.

He said authorities could say, "We could send you back to wherever you came from, and make sure that you don't get your status – and we'll find a way to kick you out of this country."

Enriquez wants community organizations to be involved in the investigation.

"We're asking COPA, let us civilians; let our organizations go inside those police districts and talk to the victims; talk to the asylum seekers – because they will trust us," Enriquez said.

Enriquez says his community is skeptical about whether COPA is working to find the truth.

Kozlov: "But you believe there is a victim."

Enriquez: "Yes, ma'am. We definitely believe there is a victim."

Kersten says the office won't be rushed.

"There is no specific end in sight," she said.

During a Monday tour of a new welcoming center for migrants, Mayor Brandon Johnson said moving the more than 940 migrants currently housed at police stations throughout the city is a priority – just like they did at the Ogden District station after the initial sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.

"We want families to be resettled, so we're moving with expediency," Mayor Johnson said, "but as has been articulated, as we decompress, more arrive."

The city says it is working with the State of Illinois and surrounding counties to create more housing and resources for the newly-arrived migrants.

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