Public Safety

  • Rahm cops to 'owning' McDonald fiasco—or does he?

    28 December 2015

    Interview in which the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky looks at aldermen's assertion that the Emanuel administration misled them about the McDonald shooting, and more.

  • Wanted: police chief—with no binding

    11 December 2015

    The Chicago Police Board is seeking applicants for the position of police superintendent, to replace the recently fired Garry McCarthy. Applicants should be adept at "avoiding excessive force, corruption, verbal abuse or other misconduct."

  • With police, Emanuel already knows what to fix and how

    10 December 2015

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel already has in-depth recommendations about how to reform policing in Chicago—and reportedly has sat on them for a year.

  • Police spying on protesters uncovered—sort of

    25 March 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on what citizens can do when government won't release public records, and more.

  • Justice group reckons checkered records

    23 January 2015

    Interview with the Chicago Justice Project's Tracy Siska about "Convicted in Cook," an analysis of Cook County conviction data.

  • Law firm tells how to curb wayward police, cops call bullshit

    13 January 2015

    Just before Christmas of 2014, the city of Chicago released a report on police misconduct−how to prevent it, that is.

    The report was prepared by the law firm Schiff Hardin and the management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, both based in Chicago.

    Although the firms say they provided the report at no cost, the city has paid Schiff Hardin (also known as Schiff Hardin & Waite) about $1.2 million for various services since 2010. Schiff Hardin has helped defend the city against lawsuits brought by citizens who have claimed police misconduct.

    To head off misconduct, the Schiff Hardin report recommends that Chicago Police Department:

    • Adopt discipline guidelines, where few or none exist today.
    • Fire any officer engaging in a “code of silence.”
    • Include training as a discipline option.
    • Make supervisors more directly responsible for officer conduct.
    • Look into officer-worn cameras.

    To handle misconduct after it happens, the report's authors say that:

    • Misconduct investigations should wrap up within two years.
    • Various investigative bodies should use the same case management system.
    • Investigators should have a community advisory board (which, the authors later say, has already been created).
    • To get accused officers to cooperate with investigations, investigators should "plea bargain" with them.
    • The city should increase the number of investigators.
    • Officers should have less opportunity to appeal discipline decisions to the police board.

    In response, officers blasted the report via the termagant Second City Cop blog. Blog posters said that:

    • The annual number of citizen complaints has decreased, so why boost the number of investigators−especially when detectives and evidence technicians are in short supply?
    • The report's authors are a "bunch of assholes" for proposing to restrict the number of "false accusers" that are referred for prosecution. Noting that a false accuser can be charged with a felony, a blogger calls this idea "fucking brilliant."
    • Though former top cop Jody Weiss's policy was to "fuck [officers] every chance you get," officers credit Weiss with fighting citizen lawsuits in court to cut down on frivolous complaints. According to the blog, the Emanuel administration has done a complete 180: it's gone back to settling lawsuits. It did this "in order to enrich connected [law] firms," which the city often hires to defend accused officers.
    • The department can cut down on misconduct-related lawsuits by firing "untouchable" clouted cops who "cost millions" in legal fees. Examples of these "clout babies," says the blog, can be found in daily headlines: "sergeants raping women . . . sergeants firing guns at suburban cops . . . detectives shoplifting . . . commanders sticking guns in people's mouths...things like that."

  • Preckwinkle takes on detention

    19 February 2014

    Cook County board president Tony Preckwinkle is poised to seize a job that's done by the man who wears the sheriff's star: responsibility for putting jail detainees on electronic monitoring.

  • Inspector General to police: replace badges with civilians

    1 February 2013

    The Chicago's Inspector General's Office issued a report recommending that the Chicago Police Department use civilians to staff hundreds of positions currently held by police officers—saving up to $16.6 million per year.

  • The Grow House Next Door

    9 August 2012

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the two forms of justice and more.

  • The Politics of Pot

    1 December 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on comparing Mayor Emanuel's control of the marijuana issue with Mayor Daley's control of a smoking ban, and more.

  • The Grass Gap

    7 July 2011

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the double standard that marijuana laws reinforce, and more.

  • Police league: new top cop part of discrimination suit

    19 May 2011

    Earlier this week, on Cliff Kelley's radio show on WVON, the head of the African American Police League wondered how well Mayor Emanuel vetted Garry McCarthy, Emanuel's pick for Chicago police superintendent. 

    Pat Hill, executive director of the league, said that the National Latino Officers Association successfully sued McCarthy and other police officials for discrimination when McCarthy served as deputy commissioner in New York City's police department.

    Further, the Latino officers opposed McCarthy's appointment to head the Newark police.

  • ID the Wrongdoers, Part 2

    17 January 2011

    The Chicago Inspector General's Office (IGO) issued a report on 1/13/11 that described wrongdoing by city employees. In its report the IGO identified the city departments involved and the acts committed—but didn't name most of the wrongdoing employees. Can you identify them?

  • The Vanishing Beat Cop

    12 August 2010

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky about the effects of crime cameras on policing, and more.

  • ID the Wrongdoers, Part 1

    14 July 2010

    The Chicago Inspector General's Office (IGO) issued a report on 7/15/10 that described wrongdoing by city employees. In its report the IGO identified the city departments involved and the acts committed—but didn't name most of the wrongdoing employees. Can you identify them?


  • Police Lieutenant Reuben Slayton*

    7 June 2010

    “We have captains who can't spell 'lieutenant'.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 35+ years

    Cred: Awarded four figures from the federal monitor

    Background: Master's degree in law enforcement; experience in hostage situations and numerous shootings; good physical shape (he runs every day).

    Gripe: Within the last four years Slayton has unsuccessfully applied three times for a promotion to a captain position, of which the department currently has over 70. He claims that, each time, the department has promoted less qualified candidates over him.

    Why the city's not compliant: Slayton says the promotion process has a built-in patronage component, in that the police department can, in each promotion cycle, promote one-third of the applicants "meritoriously"—based on the judgment of superiors rather than test scores, time in service, and education. "That's what pisses me off," says Slayton. "Which brain surgeon do you wanna see? The one who tested well, or the one chosen on merit?"

    The system has resulted, Slayton maintains, in a disappointing lack of leadership and incompetence. "We have captains," he says, "who can't spell 'lieutenant'."

    Why cloutless: Slayton has worked most of his career in the Patrol division, in which most district officers serve. It looked like good place to be, career-wise, under former superintendent Terry Hillard.

    "Hillard said he would make captains from Patrol lieutenants—but he didn't," says Slayton. "Look at where lieutenants were made from: very few from Patrol units." Since Hillard resigned in 2003, Slayton says, mid-rank promotions have come from specialized units, which one needs clout to get into. (See Lt. Madison Beadell.)

    Slayton says the police department has a large number of very qualified officers—"but they don't get promoted cuz they don't have the phone call" from a clouted patron. For example, he says, "it took me 25 years to make sergeant."

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • Police Lieutenant Madison Beadell*

    7 June 2010

    “I thought if you did a good job and stayed out of trouble, you’d get somewhere. Boy, was I naive.”

    Department: Police

    Employed for: 30+ years, now in a police district

    Cred: Awarded five figures from the federal monitor.

    Background: Rated highest in academy class.

    Gripe: Promotions tend to come from the department’s special units, and one must have clout—"You gotta be heavy"—to get into those, e.g.: Forensic Services, [Horse-] Mounted Patrol, Organized Crime, Legal Affairs ("Tons of cops are lawyers, but to get in you gotta have clout"), Narcotics and Gangs, Bomb and Arson ("You gotta be super heavy"), and Airport Law Enforcement.

    "Right after I got out of the academy, when I was working traffic in the Loop during Christmas, this one lieutenant asked me if I wanted to go to [a special unit]. I said, ‘Oh, no, I wanna go back into a district and learn patrol.’ He looked at me like I’d just landed from Mars."

    Why the city’s not compliant: Beadell says that those with clout have always climbed to the rank of lieutenant or above quickly—and they still do. An example: Beadell's first test for lieutenant applicants in 1987. "It was the most disgusting thing," Beadell says, claiming that the department used blatant favoritism in scoring applicants. "I can’t tell you how angry it makes me to think about it."

    What the Feds say: Federal monitor Noelle Brennan has documented ongoing problems with the tests on which the police base promotions. In her December 18, 2007 report to the court, Brennan notes that she tried to stop a lieutenants’ test earlier that year because "individuals with political connections might have access to the correct answers." The city administered the test anyway. And, in her December 4, 2009 report, Brennan wrote, "We are still negotiating the Hiring Plans for the Chicago Police Department and Fire Department, which were expected to have been completed almost two years ago."

    Clout tidbit: The police department’s head of human resources, Tracey Ladner, was moved to police from the city’s law department in 2008 after the Office of Compliance accused her of helping to rig a promotion for the daughter of Brian Crowe, the city’s former corporation counsel. Ladner also got a $10,000 boost in pay.

    Feb. 10, 2017 update

    The Chicago Police Dept. released a list of officers promoted since 2006 by way of merit selection—identifying the sponsor of each promotee.

    *Not his real name.

    See "Substantially clouted", the main article for this story.

  • The Passenger with a Gun

    3 December 2009

    Interview with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky on the remarkable accessibility for the press of the Independent Police Review Authority, and more.

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