Cops keep jobs even after infractions

October 29, 2009 3:19:03 PM PDT
A new study out on Thursday reveals, more often than not, Chicago police officers who are recommended to be fired get to keep their jobs.The Chicago Justice Project examined cases that came before the police board over the last decade and found two thirds of the time. The board did not follow the superintendent's recommendations.

Former Police superintendent Cline sought to fire Police Officer Gerald Callaghan because he allegedly physically threatened a sergeant and verbally threatened to kill several fellow officers. He also refused an order to submit to a breathalyzer.

After hearing the case, the Police board ruled that the superintendent failed to prove his case. The board did find there was cause for a suspension which - for Callaghan - was 18 months. Today, he remains on the force, but has been stripped of his police powers.

Every year, the civilian police board receives on average a couple dozen cases in which the Superintendent seeks to fire a police officer. Two thirds of the time the board chooses a lesser punishment.

"That either begs the question...are the charges filed improperly from the superintendent or is the board overruling at a really high rate. That needs to be explained," said Tracy Siska, Chicago Justice Project.

"We're not saying we disagree with the Superintendent on his recommendation, but what we're saying is the Superintendent did not prove his case beyond a preponderance of the evidence," said Demetrius Carney, Police Board chairman.

It's not unusual that two years or more will pass before a case reaches the police board for a decision. And that presents challenges for city lawyers who may not have abundant experience, are unfamiliar with the case, and have to line up witnesses long after the fact.

Siska says board members should be required in all cases to explain their decisions in detail - not just conclude a charge wasn't proven. A number of aldermen agree.

"They can render a written decision in each and every case before them, and I think its right for the men and women who serve in the police department," said Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd Ward.


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