Lawsuits claim hate crimes by Chicago police

November 13, 2008 4:37:04 PM PST
For the second time in a week, there are allegations that Chicago Police were involved in a hate crime on Election Day.A West Side family says they were celebrating Barack Obama's victory when they were pepper sprayed by police and chased into their home by officers who hurled racial insults at the family.

If the complaints keep surfacing, at least one Chicago attorney thinks he might have a class action lawsuit to press against Chicago Police.

Again, the scene was the West Side, this time the 3400-block of Chicago Avenue at Homan on election night, nine days ago. People say they were in front of their homes, focused on celebrating Barack Obama's victory, when, allegedly, at least five white police officers, out of resentment, broke the law.

"People was just holding up their signs, they were excited with the new president elect, you know, and I guess the police did not like it all," said Hase Love.

At the corner of Chicago and Homan, where a police surveillance camera sits, finding people who say they saw Chicago police acting improperly that night isn't hard.

"My baby was right there with me, and they were just riding around, everyone was in the street, and they sprayed mace, and I was throwing up. My baby was sprayed too, and she had to go to the hospital," said Tiquisha Johns, alleged victim.

Lawyer Gregory Kulis is representing the Arnold family who say at least five white officers stormed their home in riot gear, yelling racial slurs and frightening children and seniors. It's alleged that officers reacted after having one of their pepper spray canisters tossed back at them after they emptied it on the street, without provocation, on celebrants.

"I said, 'what is going on,' pushed my daughter to the ground, she fell on my nephew and my one-year-old, he peed on himself. My mom's blood pressure went sky high, I couldn't breathe. It's ridiculous," said Niger Arnold, alleged victim.

Kulis is demanding Police Superintendent Jody Weis investigate what's being called a pattern of behavior.

"I thought Tuesday was the beginning of a new time in America and obviously some Chicago police officers felt otherwise," said Kulis.

The lawsuit says Chicago police were guilty that night of using excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, battery and hate crimes.

In a statement, the superintendent said, "the CPD does not condone or tolerate hate crimes on any level. Police officers did an outstanding job protecting the city and maintaining order and peace during the Election Day and evening activities."

But why might police act out in this way? Loyola criminology professor Jona Goldschmidt's recent study, "The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police Deviance, Making the case," sees what might have happened as typical of officers who are frustrated by their jobs.

"(Many of them feel that) to be dishonest is to serve a higher calling, a noble cause," said Prof. Goldschmidt, Loyola University Chicago. "Dishonesty is engaged in by necessity."

Attorney Kulis has asked for surveillance video from that police camera at Chicago and Homan to be preserved, and he has also subpoenaed police records of all complaints received that night. He's asking for $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages on each of the four counts outlined in the lawsuit.


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