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Researchers release study on Chicago Police Department corruption

From gang activity to civil rights violations to illegal drug dealing, 300 Chicago police officers have been convicted of crimes since 1960 - and a third of those convictions happened since the year 2000.

Researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago on Thursday released the report entitled “Crime, Corruption and Cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department,” which details police corruption and offers remedies.

Vice in the police department dates back to prohibition and the early days of the mob, which was linked to Chicago machine politics. The report says in later decades, street gangs cut deals with dirty cops. And as the War on Drugs escalated, so did corruption.

“The question on everyone’s mind is why is the gang problem so serious in Chicago. And the gang problem has always been serious in Chicago, in part, because the problem of police corruption has always been so serious,” said John Hagedorn, a criminal justice professor who helped write the report.

The report says the CPD “has at the very least a culture that tolerates police misconduct and corruption.” It says a “blue code of silence” and the failure of state’s attorneys to prosecute wrongdoers contributes a climate of tolerance.

The corruption has also left taxpayers footing the bill of tens of millions of dollars. Recent high-profile cases have been settled - from Anthony Abatte, the officer who attacked a bartender on videotape, to former commander Jon Burge, who was convicted of lying under oath about torture of mostly black detainees.

The authors outline case studies of prominent corruption since the 1970s. There were the “Marquette 10” in which police officers on the West Side were convicted for protecting drug dealers in exchange for money. In 2001, Joseph Miedzianowski, a member of the gang crimes unit, was convicted of running an interstate drug ring between Chicago and Miami. That same year CPD Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt was convicted of using secret police information to direct a mob-connected jewelry theft ring.

Beyond going down Chicago corruption memory lane, the report outlines several recommendations: extensive ethics training for officers, more accountability for police supervisors and a new police board system.

Study co-author and former alderman Dick Simpson said the current appointed police board doesn’t work. It should be changed in one of two ways, he said.

“It can either be an elected police board or we can simply replace this entire police board with appointees that come from different backgrounds: good government advocates, civil rights advocates, former prosecutors, former inspector generals, former judges that are looking specifically at the problem of police crime and corruption and the rules and regulations that need to guide them,” Simpson said.

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