When Chicago Police Officer Joshua Purkiss testified in Cook County Judge Jerry Esrig’s courtroom last August the judge said he found the officer frightening.
The judge’s concern’s had nothing to do with the case, a workplace discrimination case in which Purkiss had virtually no involvement, instead it was Purkiss’ online presence that worried him.
Purkiss, who is a field training officer, a job that involves mentoring young cops fresh out of the academy, is the founder of a company called “Diplomacy Failure,” which sells accessories for assault rifles and other firearms.
On the stand, Purkiss described the name, Diplomacy Failure, as referring to the instances when “people cannot be reasoned with.”
“When diplomacy fails, someone has to be there to stop the aggressor,” Purkiss said.
The veteran officer was also asked about one of his company’s slogans, “Choose Your Victims Carefully.”
Purkiss said the slogan was “a warning to bad guys.”
“You don’t necessarily know who you’re messing with,” Purkiss explained under oath. “If you’re going to commit crimes, if you are going to do bad stuff, you better choose carefully because there’s people dedicated like myself out there stalking you.”
In one Facebook post for his company, over a picture of guns and ammunition, are three words: “Work, Hustle, Kill.”
Even before Purkiss took the stand, Judge Esrig said in a hearing he was concerned Purkiss would lie under oath because of another one of Purkiss’ social media posts stating that “honesty is not always the best policy,” over a meme about police being motivated by money.
Esrig said he found it concerning that someone with Purkiss’ online presence was a Chicago police officer.
“What do we do about a police officer who is posting something that says ‘choose your victims carefully?’ I find that frightening,” Esrig asked city attorneys last summer, according to a court transcript.
An attorney for the city dodged the question, but Esrig did not let up.
“I still want an answer to my question, which is what does the Police Department do about an officer who posts a slogan, ‘Choose Your Victims Carefully’? That’s concerning to me,” Esrig said later in the hearing.
“And I will look into that judge,” attorney James Botana replied.
But despite the passage of 10 months and a national reckoning with failures in police accountability, the city of Chicago does not appear to have acted in response to the judge’s concerns. In fact, it’s unclear whether the city law department even conveyed the judge’s concerns to the police department.
Chicago police spokesman Sgt. Rocco Alioto said the department had opened an investigation into Purkiss’ social media posts in March 2019, nearly five months before Purkiss took the stand and Judge Esrig made his comments.
CPD records show Purkiss is being investigated for alleged “conduct unbecoming violations.” The investigation is still open, more than 15 months after it was initiated. According to the department, Purkiss remains a field training officer.
Law Department spokeswoman Kathleen Fieweger did not answer questions about whether attorneys for the city ever told the police department about the judge’s comments, or whether they ever updated Esrig. Instead, Fieweger sent a one sentence response to WBEZ questions, saying only “the matter was handled appropriately.”
Judge Esrig declined an interview request.
Purkiss is not allowed to speak to the media because of department rules that bar officers from talking to the press. WBEZ asked the department for permission to interview Purkiss for this story, but the department did not immediately respond.
Purkiss has been investigated 43 separate times for alleged misconduct during his 17-year career. The vast majority of those complaints are linked to his time on a team responsible for conducting search warrants, and Purkiss is one of multiple officers named in those complaints. One of the investigations involves alleged violence by Purkiss.
Purkiss has never been found guilty of wrongdoing in any of the internal investigations. He has been named in multiple federal lawsuits that have cost Chicago taxpayers more than $280,000.
During his testimony in the trial before Judge Esrig, and in his online posts, Purkiss outlined his policing philosophy.
Under oath, Purkiss said there are “real police” and “alphas” who are out on the street doing the work, and that those officers do not have to answer to “house mouse secretaries” who are in charge of paperwork and making sure officers follow department rules.
On his company website, Purkiss describes one firearm accessory for sale as “a must-have for every Man-of-Action, who loves suppressive fire, more than when his Ex [gets] the clap.”
That same company post also says “there is no better defense than a brutal, devastating offense.”
In another Facebook post, Purkiss said that the company name, “Diplomacy Failure” is about “the understanding that not everything can be ‘hugged out,’ and not everyone can be reasoned with.”
“The timeline between discussion and violence, can be as fast as it is jarring,” Purkiss wrote.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him on Twitter at @pksmid. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.