Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy testified Wednesday that there was no “code of silence” within the department when he was in charge.
McCarthy’s testimony came as part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former Chicago Police Officer Laura Kubiak. Kubiak alleges she was moved out of her job at police headquarters and assigned to an overnight shift in a high-crime neighborhood as retaliation by department higher-ups after she reported being verbally assaulted by a fellow officer.
Kubiak’s lawsuit claims she was victimized by the “code of silence” within the Chicago Police Department. The alleged tendency to close ranks and cover up bad behavior by Chicago officers has been the frequent subject of lawsuits, and public discussion.
In 2015, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a highly-publicized speech in which he said there was a “tendency to ignore” and lie about police misconduct. That admission has not dissuaded city attorneys from claiming there is no code of silence, and current Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson testified last year as part of a separate lawsuit that he himself has never witnessed or observed a code of silence within the department.
McCarthy was in charge of the department when Kubiak was reassigned from her longtime post in the Office of News Affairs, which is part of the Office of the Superintendent. Kubiak said she considered the reassignment punishment for speaking out about misconduct.
Kubiak claims that Officer Veejay Zala confronted her as she was finishing her shift in November 2012, prevented her from leaving and raised a hand to her, making her fear he would strike her.
Kubiak said Zala asked her “who the f*** do you think you are, you stupid b****?” And then said “you are nothing…I am the real police.”
Kubiak told her immediate supervisors about the confrontation. Three months later she was transferred out of the Office of News Affairs.
The city admits that Zala both confronted Kubiak and said the things she described, and that Kubiak was transferred a few months after she made her complaint. However, the city has maintained that Kubiak’s position change was a normal reassignment, and not linked to her complaint against a fellow officer.
McCarthy testified on Wednesday that he did not recall ever being told about the confrontation, which happened at police headquarters. He said he did not know why he was not told about it.
An attorney for Kubiak asked McCarthy if he had given the people below him the impression that he “did not want to know” about allegations of officer misconduct.
“Never in a million years would I say something like that or give that philosophy to officers,” McCarthy responded.
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard also took the stand on Wednesday. Hillard ran the Chicago Police Department from 1998-2003, and for a brief period in 2011. Hillard was in charge when Kubiak was first assigned to the Office of News Affairs, which handles media requests.
Hillard testified that Kubiak “is a decent, honorable individual who just happened to get caught up in the system.”
“This should never have happened to her,” Hillard said.
Hillard also said that the actions by Kubiak’s supervisors’ demonstrated “dereliction of duty,” and that “the optics look very bad” to transfer the victim out but leave the “aggressor” in his position.
Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.