The City Council’s Finance Committee approved a $2 million settlement Monday in a police whistleblower lawsuit that would have required Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take the stand had it gone to trial.
In the federal lawsuit, police officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria allege their supervisors retaliated against them for helping the FBI build a case against corrupt officers.
Spalding and Echeverria were working in the narcotics unit in 2007 when they learned Sgt. Ronald Watts was shaking down drug dealers, according to city attorneys. Spalding and Echeverria helped build a case against Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed, who both pleaded guilty in federal court and were sentenced to prison.
Spalding and Echeverria claimed the commander of the narcotics unit referred to them as “rats,” gave them unfavorable assignments and denied them the opportunity for overtime, according to city attorney Jenny Notz.
She said the case would be “difficult (for the city) to win” because one of the officers named in the case resigned. Additionally, a key witness for the city was recently indicted on felony perjury charges.
In the lawsuit, Spalding and Echeverria claimed their careers were ruined for violating the department’s longstanding “code of silence,” where police officers protect and cover for each other.
The city had denied the “code of silence” existed, but Emanuel acknowledged its existence during public comments about the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Because of those comments, a judge ruled Emanuel would have to testify if the suit went to trial.
The $2 million dollar settlement, which covers any legal fees, will be shared between Spalding and Echeverria.
WBEZ reporter Patrick Smith contributed to this report.
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.