4 cops from disbanded CPD unit face federal charges

April 7, 2011 8:30:34 PM PDT
Four Chicago Police Department officers who were members of an elite unit are accused of presenting false information and testimony.

They are accused of trying to conceal unlawful searches or arrests during which cash was stolen between 2003 and 2006. Their unit, Special Operations Section, has been disbanded.

Jerome Finnigan is currently in police custody on a previous charge stemming from an alleged murder-for-hire plot involving another officer who was a potential witness against him.

Finnigan, 48, and former officer Keith A. Herrera, 33, are charged with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of individuals and other SOS officers. They allegedly "routinely and regularly" performed unlawful arrests and searches during criminal investigations, according to a statement from prosecutors. The charges allege that Finnigan's share of the money stolen in 2004 and 2005 totaled approximately $200,000, while Herrera allegedly netted approximately $40,000 in 2005 - all of which came from a larger pool of approximately $600,000 that allegedly were stolen in five separate episodes in 2004 and 2005.

Former officer Stephen DelBosque, 35, and Officer Eric J. Olsen, 37, who is on call-back status, face misdemeanor civil rights violations. They are expected to plead guilty.

A number of civil suits against the city allege the cops also targeted innocent victims. Noel Padilla filed one of those suits.

"My life will never be the same because of this time in my life. They altered my whole life, my way of being," Padilla told ABC7.

Padilla spent nine months in the Cook County Jail after he says officers tried to threaten him to hand over drugs guns or cash. When he refused, they allegedly planted drugs and arrested him.

"They targeted areas where they thought they could get money...They were getting people who were completely innocent where there was no crime," said Chris Smith, attorney. "It's tantamount to kidnapping and taking a man's life."

Padilla says he wants justice. He missed his son's first birthday while behind bars.

"That flipped my whole world upside down, knowing that I couldn't be there with him," he said.

Statement Regarding Charges in SOS Investigation:
The Chicago Police Department is very pleased that this case is moving forward. We thank the U.S. Attorney's Office for their commitment to this investigation. Much has changed within the Department since this investigation was initiated, including many enhancements that support the highest degree of professionalism and integrity at all times. We remain committed to rooting out bad cops who violate the public's trust and the honor of this profession. As this case moves forward, so too will thousands of hard working and honorable members of the Department, working proudly in support of their oath and in service to the good people of Chicago.

Statement from Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police:
''This put an unfortunate chapter in Chicago police history to a close. Keep in mind that nearly 300 professional officers worked in this unit. The acts of four should not overshadow the good deeds carried out on a daily basis by the officers that worked special operations section. I hope this story does not overshadow the events in Englewood this morning where three children were killed in a fire and two on-duty Chicago police officers, on midnights, entered a burning building and tried in vain to save these three small children. Both officers were hospitalized due to their heroic actions."