Report: Officers from elite Chicago police unit top list of misconduct allegations

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Officers from an elite unit of the Chicago Police Department are under fire. The Chicago City Council has a list of hundreds of Chicago Police officers who have had ten or more complaints against them. The officers with the most complaints are from the special operations section.

Those officers have 50 or more misconduct complaints against them filed in the past five years. The documents obtained by ABC7 and other news organizations are seeing public light because of a police misconduct lawsuit filed against the city. The documents list hundreds and hundreds of citizen complaints against cops. The officers are not named, and their alleged offenses are not detailed, but department critics say the documents show that there seems to be little or no discipline.

These documents -- now in the hands of Chicago aldermen -- list citizen complaints against Chicago Police officers going back five years. The city's law department has blacked out the names of the officers, and the nature of the complaints is not made clear. What it does show is that four officers receiving the most complaints are all members of the department's special operations Section, and that in the last five years, each of them has been on the receiving end of 50 or more citizen complaints.

By nature of their assignments, the special ops cops are aggressive, and would arguably be the subject of more citizen complaints, but the numbers raise questions among aldermen.

"There has to be some explanation as to why so many complaints have been made against these officer and why they're still on the force," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th Ward.

It is not only of number complaints, but OPS findings that have raised more questions. Ten special operations officers between them are the subjects of 408 complaints over the last five years. Only three of those complaints were sustained by OPS, and the penalties were two reprimands and one 15-day suspension.

"There's virtually no discipline and it gives the public the idea that we have a police department whose officers figure they can do anything they want," said Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd Ward.

Six special operations section cops -- several of them highly decorated -- are all facing criminal charges including robbery and kidnapping as part of an ongoing investigation by the state's attorney's office. What's not year clear is whether those six are among the officers with high numbers of previous citizen complaints.

Attorney Jon Loevy, who has brought numerous police brutality cases against the city, argues that the public ought to know the specifics of serious complaints and the officers who are named in them.

"Nobody gets to see what OPS does and that's why they're able to whitewash investigation after investigation," said Loevy.

The City Council is set to vote Thursday on the mayor's plan to restructure the Office of Professional Standards.

While some aldermen say the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, others see them as window dressing unless significantly more public oversight is brought to the process of investigating complaints against police officers.

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