The Rundown: What police misconduct costs taxpayers

Chicago police
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Chicago police
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

The Rundown: What police misconduct costs taxpayers

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Good afternoon! It’s Wednesday, and I desperately need a haircut. I look like I’m blasting Jethro Tull (the flute solo) as I drive my 1980 Volvo to work at a small liberal arts college. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Chicago spent more than half a billion dollars on police misconduct claims from 2010 to 2020

That’s according to an analysis from The Washington Post, which found that more than $1.5 billion has been spent across the nation on police misconduct claims.

Among major U.S. cities, Chicago had “the highest rate of misconduct claims involving officers named in multiple cases. More than 70% of the city’s roughly 1,500 payments over the decade involved at least one officer with repeated claims,” the newspaper found.

For example, a single officer was the subject of 16 claims that cost taxpayers more than $5 million. That officer, Armando Ugarte, was “relieved of his police powers” in October, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said.

Altogether, Chicago officers who were the subjects of more than one paid claim “accounted for more than $380 million of the nearly $528 million in payments.” [WaPo]

2. An early look at the race for mayor of Chicago

The race is so wide open that it is likely we’ll see another crowded field of candidates, increasing the odds of a run-off election between the two top vote-getters, writes Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman in an insightful analysis.

That’s largely due to the recent announcement that former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will not challenge incumbent Lori Lightfoot, a decision that leaves the business community — and its money — on the sidelines.

Among the big names being floated as a potential candidate is U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who told the Sun-Times that he was “being encouraged” to run.

Another possibility is City Clerk Anna Valencia if she loses the Democratic primary for secretary of state to front-runner Alexi Giannoulias. Valencia could use a strong showing in that race to kickstart a mayoral campaign.

If elected, Valencia would be the first Latina to serve as mayor. “And everybody who knows her knows her ultimate goal is to be elected mayor,” the Sun-Times reports. [S-T]

3. Ukraine says a Russian strike hit a maternity hospital

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today accused Russian forces of carrying out a “direct strike” on a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol.

“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” the president tweeted, along with video footage that he said was from the hospital. “How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?”

The deputy mayor of Mariupol said Russian forces violated a temporary cease-fire and began firing on evacuation routes.

Serhiy Orlov, the deputy mayor, said about 1,200 civilians have been killed in his city in the past two weeks. He also said electricity, water and sewage lines have been cut.

“It’s like medieval times. The only way to cook food is on an open fire,” he told reporters on a Zoom call. [NPR]

4. Pritzker freezes funding for projects pushed by Michael Madigan

Gov. JB Pritzker this week put a freeze on “tens of millions of dollars in state funding for four projects sponsored by indicted former Speaker Michael J. Madigan in the aftermath of his corruption indictment,” reports the Better Government Association.

The move comes after the BGA reported earlier this year that at least $144 million went to four projects earmarked by Madigan for funding in a 2019 infrastructure bill.

In recent days, nine Democratic legislators asked Pritzker to freeze the funding, saying the charges against Madigan raise questions about the money and the projects. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, Madigan today pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges. [Sun-Times]

5. Explorers found one of history’s greatest wrecks

And it’s not an Illinois politician. Haw haw. Cue the horns.

No, I’m talking about Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, a ship that made an ill-fated voyage to the Antarctic in 1915.

Ice in the sea crushed the ship, setting in motion “one of the greatest survival stories in the annals of exploration,” writes The New York Times. Shackleton’s leadership was credited for the safe return of all crew members as they made an 800-mile journey in an open boat to the island of South Georgia.

Now, a team of researchers and explorers found the shipwreck using undersea drones after searching for more than two weeks.

Wreckage of Endurance was discovered “nearly 10,000 feet down in waters that are among the iciest on Earth,” the Times reports. [NYT]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The U.S. is nearing 1 million deaths from COVID-19, and advocates are pushing for a memorial day on the first Monday of March each year. [NPR]
  • President Biden ordered a sweeping review of cryptocurrency that sets the stage for possible federal regulations and the creation of a digital version of the dollar. [CNBC]
  • Disney workers are outraged the company’s CEO will not condemn a Florida bill that limits how LGBTQ issues are discussed in public schools. [NPR]
  • Actor Jussie Smollett is expected to be sentenced tomorrow for staging his own hate crime. [Chicago Tribune]

Oh, and one more thing …

Remember those simpler times, when murder hornets were a thing?

Well, you might after this: Spiders the size of a child’s hand are expected to “colonize” the entire East Coast, according to researchers at the University of Georgia.

And they will be parachuting from the sky.

The Joro spider, an invasive species that’s native to Japan, uses its webs as parachutes to travel in the wind. While that sounds horrifying, they pose no huge risk to humans because their fangs are small. [Axios]

Tell me something good …

OK, sounds like the inevitable is coming: We may soon have to return to the office. So, what is the funniest or most embarrassing thing to happen to you at work?

Mary writes:

“My story takes place about 20 years ago. My office was moving to another building and the maintenance staff had brought up a large dumpster from the dock.

“The next morning I came into my cubicle and heard a noise. I thought something had fallen into my garbage can but it quickly became apparent that something alive was in the garbage.

“I stood frozen for a moment and then leaned over a bit and there was a tiny bat clinging to the garbage bag. I would like to tell you that I reacted calmly but in reality I screamed bloody murder and ran down the hall shrieking, ‘Emergency, emergency, there’s a bat!’

“One of my co-workers covered the garbage can and took it downstairs and dumped it into the bushes. And that’s how I became known as Batgirl.”

Feel free to email or tweet me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.