In an apparent attempt to strike a blow against the department’s long-alleged “code of silence” that protects bad cops, the Chicago Police Department has created a policy banning retaliation against officers who report misconduct.
The new policy comes after years of claims that CPD has a pattern of punishing officers who speak out, with multiple whistleblowers claiming they were demoted or threatened, and left with nowhere to turn because their own supervisors were against them.
“I think we’re all aware of the cases that we’ve seen throughout the course of the last several decades, really. And we think it’s important to make that value statement [against retaliation],” said Robert Boik, CPD’s executive director of constitutional policing.
The new policy is part of the department’s efforts to comply with the court-enforced reform plan known as a consent decree. It is one of 112 policies the department created or revised since March, according to a 172-page report filed by the department in federal court on Sunday.
Chicago taxpayers shelled out $2 million to police officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria in 2016 after the two claimed their supervisors retaliated against them for helping the FBI build a case against corrupt officers who ended up being sentenced to federal prison. Spalding and Echeverria claimed their commander referred to them as “rats,” gave them unfavorable assignments and denied them opportunities for overtime.
In 2019 a jury awarded another $2 million to former officer Laura Kubiak who was removed from her post in the department’s press office after she reported being verbally assaulted by a fellow officer.
That same year, Sgt. Isaac Lambert filed a lawsuit alleging his superiors pressured him to help cover up the truth of a 2017 police shooting and retaliated against him when he refused to do so. A legal settlement over the shooting cost Chicago taxpayers another $2.25 million. Lambert’s whistleblower lawsuit is still pending.
And just last month, CPD Lieutenant Franklin Paz sued the department claiming he was “dumped” down to midnights as retaliation because he complained about an allegedly illegal quota policy being used in the department’s newly created Community Safety Team.
Police Superintendent David Brown declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he can’t talk about pending litigation, but he did broadly defend the department’s practice of tracking stops by officers.
The new retaliation policy creates a broad definition of retaliation, sets up a way for officers to report retaliation outside of the usual chain of command and lays out potential discipline for retaliation, all the way up to termination.
“While the Department has never condoned retaliation, we did not previously have an explicit, stand-alone policy against it,” the report on police reforms reads. “That made it difficult for members to clearly identify when retaliation was occurring, made reporting retaliation difficult if it occurred within a person’s chain of command, and left discipline in somewhat of a gray area since retaliatory conduct does not always fit neatly within the parameters of other prohibited conduct.”
Department officials say they’ve greatly ramped up their reform efforts under Brown’s leadership. The new report summarizes actions taken in the third “reporting period” of the consent decree, and they say the department submitted more documents for review in this reporting period than in the previous two combined. Although Brown acknowledged it will be up to independent monitor Maggie Hickey and her team to determine if the reform efforts actually meet the standards set out in the consent decree.
In the first year of the consent decree, Hickey found Chicago to be falling far short of its agreements. In her most recent report last summer, Hickey reported that the city had missed 70% of its court-mandated police reforms.
Many of the reforms are focused on holding cops accountable for misdeeds, and much of Chicago’s complex discipline system actually sit outside of the department’s control. Brown, who took over Chicago’s police department last April said the city’s discipline system for officers, which involves multiple city agencies and takes years to process cases remains a “puzzle” to him.
“It is the most convoluted disciplinary system I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Brown, who was previously the police chief in Dallas. “It just goes in so many different directions and comes back, and the timing of it is [too long].”