Report: Many lawsuits against Chicago police involve 'repeaters'

Police attorney says systems are in place to protect against misconduct

By Police1 Staff

CHICAGO — Nearly a third of police misconduct lawsuits that led to city payments over the past two years involved a small group of “repeaters,” according to a report. 

“Of 441 police misconduct lawsuits that led to city payments between January 2009 and November 2011, nearly a third—or 145—involved the ‘repeaters,’” The Chicago Reporter found

“This small group—140 in all—proved costly. Despite making up 1 percent of the police force, they accounted for more than a quarter—or $11.7 million—of all damage payments incurred from police misconduct lawsuits. The city defended a good number of those officers in additional cases as well; nearly a third of the 140 officers were named in at least five misconduct lawsuits since 2000.”

Attorney Craig Futterman, who founded the Civil Right and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago, said the findings show a lack of transparency and a need for “policing the police,” despite the many departmental procedures that ensure cases are handled appropriately.

Ralph Price, a lead police department attorney, said the agency routinely meets with the law department to review abuse allegations that are detailed in lawsuits.

“We don’t shut our eyes and ignore it. Absolutely not,” Price said. “There is definitely a follow-up between litigation and a review of department policy and training.”

Three officers who were named in the most lawsuits — Jerome Finnigan, Donovan Markiewicz and Frank Villareal — were members of the Special Operations unit, whose members ran a theft and extortion ring, a 2007 investigation found.

They are off the force today, but Futterman thinks other officers named in multiple cases might need to be addressed.

“The city recognizes the need to look at patterns,” he said. “But with each and every scandal … the Chicago Police Department turns a blind eye to those patterns.”

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