The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is one of the oldest modern police forces in the world. Perhaps that explains the department long history of sordid misconduct which includes:
- The systematic torture of African-American suspects between 1972-1991
- Officers involved in drug dealing conspiracies;
- Officers involved in wide ranging jewelry theft rings;
- Officers involved in burglary/home invasion rings;
- Officers operating an off-the-books secret warehouse for interrogation/torture of suspects;
- Officers framing innocent suspects by beating confessions out of them;
- Scores of unlawful arrests of innocent citizens; and
- Hundreds of killings unarmed suspects.
This disgraceful history of corruption and unlawful violent, criminal activity prompted a January 2017 report by the U.S. Justice Department finding that the CPD has a history of excessive violence against the general public, especially in African-American communities.
FBI Busts Bad Cops
One of those lawless CPD officers was Sgt. Ronald Watts who, in 2011, was a Wentworth District tactical sergeant assigned to work a massive Southside impoverished public housing complex in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Watts and at least one other officer, Kallatt Mohammed, were involved in a long running operation of shaking down drug dealers. An FBI sting operation ensnared the two officers taking money from a drug dealer in October 2011.
Mohammed pled guilty in the summer of 2012 and received an 18-month sentence in a federal prison. In October 2013, Watts was sentenced to 22 months in a federal prison after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman told him: “You were a sergeant operating in a community that should hold you up as an example. You needed to protect those people, and you didn’t.”
The Watts/Mohammed cases still haunts the CPD.
Seven More Officers Under Investigation
CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson recently announced that seven officers who were allegedly involved in the Watts/Mohammed shakedown crew were being removed from the city’s streets and assigned to desk duties while their roles in the crew are investigated.
According to a November 17, 2017 Chicago Tribune article written by Meagan Crepeau, Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner, Superintendent Johnson’s decision came only after the head of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s Conviction Integrity Unit exonerated 15 men who had been framed by Watts and his crew. Mark Rotert said that as many as 500 more cases would be reviewed. This means more exonerations may occur in this horrific example of official corruption and police misconduct.
Desk Job with Pay for Suspect Cops
Superintendent Johnson was reluctant to take any action against the seven officers until an internal review had been completed. He pointed out that none of these officers have been convicted of a crime, as Watts and Mohammed were.
“[These officers] have due process and rights just like any citizen in this country,” the superintendent told local reporters. “… we just can’t arbitrarily take the job away from them.”
The problem with Johnson’s position is this: the CPD, as the Tribune reported, conducted a “lengthy internal affairs investigation” in the wake of the Watts/Mohammed convictions. That IA investigation should have included a review of all the drug cases these two corrupt officers were involved. The suspected officers’ involvement and employment status should have long ago been a settled issue.
Local criminal defense attorneys have vowed to continue their determined pursuit to have all the Watts/Mohammed cases reviewed. Joshua Tepfer, the lead attorney for the 15 exonerated men, put it this way to local reporters: “It needs to be investigated and vetted about how many of those [500 cases] are appropriate to overturn. We are very much in the process of doing that.”
The Tribune reported that this is “believed to be the first mass exoneration in county history.”
2,126 Exonerations In US
As of November 20, 2017, there have been 2,126 exonerations in this country, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The Registry reported earlier this year that each year between 2014 thru 2016 a record number of exonerations occurred, with 166 being recorded in 2016 alone.
Other Mass “Exonerations”
The Registry reports that there have been three other major “group exonerations” in this country: the 1999-2000 Los Angeles “Rampart Scandal” that resulted in between 100 and 150 convictions being vacated because some members of the Rampart Division police framed defendants, planted evidence on others, and shot or killed innocent citizens in a reign of terror and corruption.
Then there was the Dallas “Sheetrock Scandal” that came to light in 2002 involving drug suspects being charged with possession of cocaine that, when the substance was actually analyzed, turned out to be a “powdered gypsum.” This case involved some 80 defendants—most of who had not went to trial—while others had been deported to Mexico or were serving prison sentences. Their arrests and convictions had to be set aside.
Finally, there was the 2003 Tulia, Texas scandal involving some 39 defendants who were convicted between 1999 and 2000 on the word of a single dishonest narcotics officer. 35 of the individuals were pardoned in 2003 after it was conclusively shown the officer had framed them. Two other individuals had their convictions vacated in court and the charges dismissed against them.
The Registry also found evidence of an additional nine group exonerations that came about because of 12 police scandals over the last two decades.
100 Exonerations This Year
Thus far this year, the Registry reports there have been 100 exonerations across the country—17 of which occurred in Texas.
Many of these involve some sort of police misconduct.
Police misconduct involves the planting of evidence, perjury in the courtroom, manufacturing criminal activity, using informants to set up people, and even the murder of innocent people—all designed to frame and send innocent people to prison.
Granted, most cops are honest, but as police departments increase their numbers and militarize their law enforcement operations, the number of dirty cops is growing at an alarming rate.
Criminal Justice Reform Demands Accountability
CPD Superintendent Johnson would have us believe that the right of an accused corrupt cop to due process of law is of paramount importance. But what about the due process right to innocent people to be served and protected, not framed and abused?
If a private employee is accused of serious wrongdoing and corruption on the job, he or she is not assigned to “desk duty” with pay until the employer conducts an “internal investigation.”
Compelling evidence of police misconduct should demand immediate dismissal. There are post-dismissal remedies available to those officers who believe they have been wrongfully terminated. Desk duty with pay in response to official misconduct, some of it violent and murderous, is not an appropriate response to such misconduct.