A Chicago police sergeant has quit upon the city’s long-delayed release of a report that focuses on allegations he engaged in extortion more than 16 years ago on a crew of corrupt cops, two of whom were sent to federal prison.
Sgt. Alvin Jones — a 26-year CPD veteran who worked closely with disgraced former Sgt. Ronald Watts, the crew’s leader — retired effective Monday, according to a police spokesperson. The departure caps a discipline case that was mired for years in the city’s byzantine police oversight apparatus.
“Jones was a corrupt police officer,” said Joshua Tepfer, an attorney for dozens of people who have been exonerated of drug felonies stemming from arrests involving the cop. “Jones violated the public trust for many, many years and he harmed an untold number of people in an entire community.”
“My clients that he victimized await his apology,” Tepfer said.
The report on Jones was completed in March 2021 by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability but kept hidden by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration until Monday, after a Cook County judge ordered the release.
The Lightfoot administration redacted the analysis and findings from the released version. But, according to CPD, the case led the department to strip Jones of police powers last June “pending separation.” Jones’ resignation ends a case that could have resulted in the first serious discipline against members of the crew since Watts and an underling were arrested a decade ago.
The investigators focused on a pair of 2005 arrests involving Jones at Ida B. Wells, a South Side public housing complex where the Watts team worked. Authorities brought charges against Ben Baker, a drug dealer at the time, and his wife Clarissa Glenn. The arrests allegedly stemmed from Baker’s refusal to pay police protection fees.
The COPA report names “admitted” drug dealers at the complex who gave statements to COPA “against their interests.” It also names a former police informant who, according to the agency, described Jones as Watts’ “bodyguard and enforcer, a man who was known to beat people in order to get information.”
Jones, according to that account, “was routinely involved in false arrests” and rewarded the informant “by telling him where to find stashed narcotics for his personal use.”
Another witness, according to COPA, said an officer he knew as “Al” routinely came to his apartment to demand drugs. The dealer, who identified Jones as that officer in a photo array, said members of the Watts team made as many as 200 such demands over the years.
COPA investigators, according to the report, found those statements “reliable.”
In two places at once
The arrests of Baker and Glenn took place on December 11, 2005. The report lists 23 alleged CPD rule violations by Jones for arresting the couple “without justification,” knowingly filing a spate of “false” reports about the arrests, allegedly lying to city investigators about the case and bringing “discredit” to the police department.
The report also describes reports and sworn statements by Jones that put him in separate locations at the same time that day. At about 12:12 p.m., according to COPA, Jones claimed he saw Baker commit a traffic violation and saw Glenn hand a bag of suspected drugs to her husband. Jones then helped another cop on the Watts team arrest the couple.
During those same moments, according to the report, Jones also claimed he was conducting surveillance on a drug dealer’s transactions at a different building and that he helped with that dealer’s arrest. COPA described the surveillance and arrests as “simultaneous.”
Glenn’s arrest that day eventually led to a sentence of probation. She did not go to prison but had to raise the couple’s three boys without Baker, who spent nearly a decade behind bars.
Baker told city investigators he sold narcotics at the Wells complex but said the Watts team — “specifically Jones,” according to the report — fabricated three arrests of him for refusing to pay police extortion fees and for reporting the conduct of the Watts’ team to authorities.
Lightfoot’s administration released the COPA report this week despite an order by the judge to release it by April 26 as part of a lawsuit seeking enforcement of Illinois’ open records law.
The Lightfoot administration also blacked out key sections. One summarizes statements by Jones. Under his union’s contract with the city, according to a CPD record obtained by WBEZ, Jones has sought the exclusion of January 2019 statements he gave to COPA about his activities at the Wells complex.
The Lightfoot administration also redacted the report’s analysis and the findings against Jones, who remained on the police payroll late Monday with an annual salary of $130,596.
Watts associates still on duty
Watts and his team were the subject of investigations spanning more than eight years, according to the COPA report. Those probes involved federal agencies including the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local entities including CPD and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The FBI closed its investigation in 2006, according to the COPA report, but reopened it the following year “after obtaining information about the team’s corruption from other Chicago police officers.” The report quotes from an FBI “operations plan” that says Watts “worked closely with … P.O. Alvin Jones in the commission of his corrupt activity.”
Watts and one of the officers he supervised, Kallatt Mohammed, were arrested in 2012 and sent to federal prison for stealing what they thought was drug money from an FBI informant.
Yet police officials left more than a dozen former members of the unit on duty. Ten months after the arrests, Jones was promoted to sergeant on the recommendation of the district commander.
In recent years, judges have vacated 213 Watts-related convictions, nearly all drug felonies, according to a WBEZ review of court records. Those include 44 thrown out on April 22, the county’s largest exoneration ever.
The first exonerees were Baker and Glenn, whose Watts-linked drug convictions were vacated in 2016.
In 2017, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office notified CPD that prosecutors would no longer call Jones and nine other former members of the unit to testify in criminal cases due to “concerns about their credibility.”
City investigators launched their investigation of the Baker and Glenn arrests that year. It took the city four years to finish the probe. After COPA sent the report to Police Supt. David Brown, CPD stripped Jones of police powers last June and assigned him to a unit that handles nonemergency calls.
The city’s Law Department last summer said the Jones case would “arrive at the Police Board upon the completion of the preparation of charges.” The board makes final decisions about the most serious officer discipline.
In February, a CPD spokesperson wrote that Jones remained stripped of powers “pending separation.”
Jones’ attorney has not returned messages seeking comment about the case.
A federal investigation into the Watts crew, meanwhile, appears to have continued.
In October, an FBI special agent telephoned former Watts unit member Douglas E. Nichols Jr., according to an April sworn statement the officer gave in a civil lawsuit. When the special agent asked about Watts, Nichols answered he wanted to speak with his attorney, according to his statement.
Nichols, promoted by CPD to detective in 2020, is assigned to Area 4, a West Side detective division based at 3151 W. Harrison St. His statement says he works in a case management office, where he calls crime victims to see if they want to pursue charges.
Nichols, whose annual police salary is $110,796, said he advises the victims “how to get that person arrested.”
This report has been updated to reflect statements by city officials on Tuesday afternoon that Jones had resigned.