The cases of a few Chicago police officers have, until recently, seemed to somehow get lost in the shuffle, meaning they were guilty but the system has chosen to forgive them.
The cases of a few Chicago police officers have, until recently, seemed to somehow get lost in the shuffle, meaning they were found guilty but the system has inadvertently chosen to “forgive them”. The lost cases are fairly important ones, too. One included that of an officer who beat his wife, also an officer, and threatened to steal her gun. Another involves an officer who used his police powers to harass his estranged wife, and a third concerns an agent of going on “a loud, expletive-laden rant about his dress shoes”, according to records. Their cases represent a breakdown of the city’s police disciplinary system. Guilty, but forgotten, the officers’ cases were sitting open for years as officials failed to ensure their punishments were carried out.
This neglect has happened in at least fourteen cases, though disciplinary officials can’t say for sure there aren’t even more. The officers have been saved from serving years in prison because of the oversight. The officer who threatened his wife, for instance, was able to kept his badge and go unpunished for eight years after the incident. In this case, back in October 2008, the man was found to have battered his wife after she accused him of being in the basement on the phone with another woman and asked him to leave their house, according to records. He pushed her, punched her in the face and body, and choked her as he held her against a wall. Her 9-year-old son called the police and reported the attack. “My stepdad is hitting my mom,” the child said, according to a transcript of the call. “I need you here ASAP.”
All of the officers were found to have committed some form of misconduct years ago and were originally suspended for the incidents after being found guilty, but that’s as far as the system had held them accountable. In light of the media’s attention and the Chicago Tribune’s investigative efforts, suspensions have finally started to become a reality for most.
The police department has confirmed that it is developing a plan to manage misconduct complaints electronically moving forward, as historically, such cases have been handled on paper. This made it much easier for the charges to get lost along the way and for the system to forgive guilty verdicts, subsequently making it difficult to follow up on their statuses.
The department has failed at times to let the oversight agency know when an officer’s appeal was complete. Without that information, Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) could not close pending cases and alert the department’s finance division when discipline should be carried out. So, in many cases, this action was never taken and follow up was overlooked. “While a lot of progress has been made over the past year, we recognize there is still more work to do to ensure swift and certain discipline,” police spokesman Frank Giancamilli said.
“There was a system and infrastructure failure on both sides,” said IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac of the system’s tendency to forgive and forget. “Our priority now is to create a system where this issue does not exist and there is no way a mess like this can be created.”