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Why Names Matter

Frank Main at the Sun Times reports that rogue cop Jerome Finnigan was third on the list of officers with complaints of excessive force, which the city is protecting — even from City Council members — in the name of the officers’ privacy.

This underscores and begins to answer the question Jamie Kalven asked last week: “What would be revealed about the CPD’s systems of supervision, monitoring, and discipline” if we knew Finnegan was at the top of the list?

Kalven pointed out that unit numbers on the list of complaints (individual names were blacked out on copies given aldermen) showed the top four officers, each with 50 or more complaints, were members of the Special Operations Section and that the top ten SOS officers on the list each had 30 or more complaints. “Of these complaints, only three were sustained by CPD investigators. Two resulted in reprimands (among the mildest form of discipline) and one resulted in a 15-day suspension.”

The Sun Times: “Most of the complaints against Finnigan… were deemed by Police Department investigators to be unfounded or not sustained.

“[Federal] prosecutors later found some of those same complaints to be valid and charged Finnigan and six fellow officers, including a sergeant, with crimes such as home invasion, robbery and kidnapping.”

Last week Kalven argued: “If the CPD failed to adequately investigate hundreds of civilian complaints against the central figures in what may well prove the biggest police scandal in Chicago history, then we must confront the fact that the essential issue is not how to improve a flawed system of investigation. It is how to dismantle a complex apparatus of official denial — a regime of not-knowing — in which not only CPD investigations but also [Mara] Georges’ City Law Office are components.”

City Denies Police Data to City Council

“In seeking a stay from the Seventh Circuit [of Judge Joan Lefkow’s order unsealing a list of police officers with the most excessive force complaints], the City emphasized that it would, in keeping with Judge Lekfow’s ruling, make the documents available to any aldermen who asked for them” Jamie Kalven comments at View From The Ground on the story broken in the Tribune today.

“Having been granted the stay, [City Counsel Mara] Georges now tells aldermen who request the documents that the City cannot provide them because of the stay.”

Kalven is the independent journalist who filed the motion initially requesting public disclosure of the documents, which Lefkow granted. The argument about alermanic access came as the City Council was considering reform of the Office of Professional Standards in July (see Newstips: Judge Orders Release of Police Data).

“Withholding the documents on the basis of this transparently specious argument is an affront to the First Amendment—-and to members of the City Council,” Kalven goes on. “They should insist on their right to this information.

“A great deal is at stake. Circumstances have combined to create an historic opportunity for police reform in Chicago. Once the disputed documents are released, they will interact with information already in the public domain in ways that will deepen our understanding of patterns of police abuse and also of the systemic failures of supervision, monitoring, and discipline that have allowed abusive officers to operate for years with impunity.

“Consider, for example, the ever-expanding Special Operations Section case. Six SOS officers have been indicted on an array of charges that include corruption, kidnapping, and robbery. They stand accused, in effect, of having operated a large-scale criminal enterprise out of their unit. A number of other SOS officers have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. The trial has not yet begun, yet the damage continues to mount. The state’s attorney’s office has dropped more than a hundred pending felony cases, because they were contaminated by one or another of the defendants. A large number of civil cases will inevitably be brought against the City. The U.S. Attorney’s office is undertaking its own investigation. Finally, last week Officer Jerome Finnegan, the alleged ringleader of the SOS racketeering operation, was arrested by federal agents for plotting the murder-for-hire of a former SOS officer who had agreed to testify against him and his co-defendants.

“Although we do not yet know the full dimensions of the SOS scandal, it is clear that the monetary and institutional costs to the City will be vast. Against this background, what might we learn from the list of officers who have amassed the most civilian complaints over a five year period?…

“What would be revealed about the CPD’s systems of supervision, monitoring, and discipline, if we definitively knew that Finnegan and his co-defendants are at or near the top of the list?”



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