Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins recognize that corruption in Chicago is far from a recent phenomenon; however, there is a troubling trend within the Chicago Police Department allowing police officers to break the law again and again while remaining on the force.
The Sun-Times recently reported on two CPD officers who personify the city's internal corruption: Officers Richard A. Rizzo and Daniel P. Sullivan. Rizzo has been arrested four times in the past seven years, all by his colleagues at the CPD. Among his crimes include domestic battery, aggravated assault with a gun, and child endangerment. Each of the four arrest charges was dropped against him, and he continues to work in the department as a 15-year veteran of the force, making more than $80,000 a year.
In fact, absolutely no public record exists showing Rizzo was disciplined for violating CPD rules and regulations. Such disciplinary action is supposed to be taken if officers break the law or otherwise discredit the department.
Six days after the Sun-Times asked the CPD about his status in the department, it claimed he was relieved of his police powers. In a city that had more than 500 murders in 2012, the police department is an incredibly important institution entrusted with immense power. The great responsibility that comes with that power, however, is being abused.
Rizzo is among a fraternity of CPD cops who continue working for the department even after repeated run-ins with the law. It is not legally allowed to employ felons, although being charged with a misdemeanor (theft, battery, assault) seems to be no problem.
Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in May 2011, the department has stripped 74 officers of their police powers. For the majority of officers, including, now, Rizzo, this means they work desk jobs instead of patrolling streets.
The Chicago Police Board, a nine-person panel of mayor-appointed members, has the final say in firing CPD officers. Former police superintendent Jody Weis says he tried to get 66 officers fired during his three-year stint, however the Board fired only 19 of them. No superintendent has ever brought Rizzo before the Board to be disciplined. In fact, he has enjoyed seven pay raises since his first arrest in September 2005.
In that incident, Rizzo's live-in girlfriend accused him of taking her from his car, dragging her to their apartment, and slamming her against the floor. She suffered numerous bruises and lacerations, however, the charges were dropped. Five years later, he was arrested again for fighting with two men he lived with. He was charged with aggravated assault with a gun and, again, domestic battery, although the charges were dropped.
One month after that, he was arrested for, you guessed it, domestic battery after he grabbed his girlfriend by the throat and began to strangle her. She hid in her bedroom, to which Rizzo kicked in the door just before police arrived. His next arrest, in 2011, came for endangering a child. He was accused of leaving his eight-year-old son alone at home for about three hours. When police interviewed him a week later, he did not ask how his son was doing, only how his job would be affected by the arrest.
Another officer with a similarly sickening story is Daniel P. Sullivan, who pleaded guilty to a racially-charged crime outside a Wisconsin bar, during which he broke a black man's right leg. Sullivan was drunk outside a bar when the man walked past him. Sullivan started using racial slurs and threatened the man, who pulled out his phone to call the police. Sullivan then knocked him to the ground and beat him until he broke his right femur. He was suspended for 18 months, and is now back patrolling the streets of Chicago, making $78,000 a year.
The President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7, Michael Sheilds, whose union represents most of the Chicago officers, told the Sun-Times that he is "fairly certain," the process the CPD uses to "discipline officers is not fair." Case in point: Lt. Denis P. Walsh was awarded a promotion, enjoying over $115,000-a-year supervising detectives on the North Side, just a few years after being charged with felony sexual assault. He is the son of a former police commander so his charges were reduced to a misdemeanor, and he never appeared before the Police Board.
Police brutality lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience advocating on behalf of victims of police misconduct and their families. If your civil rights were violated by a police officer, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.