There’s a story that’s getting quite a bit of attention here in Chicago and I think it’s worth putting on the floor for discussion:
On the day that Chicago taxpayers got the bill for another $33 million in payouts for police misconduct lawsuits, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to reassure citizens that the city’s bleak history of lax police oversight came to an end when he was elected mayor.
But some aldermen and government transparency advocates questioned Thursday whether City Hall and the Chicago Police Department have done enough to identify and weed out the type of behavior that has made the city notorious for bad cop scandals.
As the settlements in two infamous cases moved through City Council votes this week, some aldermen made the connection between police accountability and the cost to taxpayers. Those frustrations reached a peak Thursday as the aldermen voted 49-0 to approve a $10.25 million settlement for a man wrongfully imprisoned for years and a $22.5 million settlement for a mentally ill woman who was left severely disabled after police released her in a high-crime area where she was attacked.
If my understanding is correct the first settlement is the case of a man who was tortured by the police into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit who served 26 years in jail before being exonerated. The second is the case of a mentally ill woman who was arrested at Midway Airport for making a disturbance and then released into the area of the Robert Taylor Homes, a notorious CHA housing project now closed and quite a distance from where she was apprehended. She was then raped at knifepoint by an unknown assailant and fell or was pushed from a seventh story window. She survived but sustained injuries that mean she will require round-the-clock nursing for the rest of her life.
I don’t think there’s any question that terrible injustices were done to both of these individuals. My questions are about the law and justice of the settlements.
To the best of my knowledge no police officer, city, or state official has ever been punished or even reprimanded in either of these cases. Some involved in on case or the other are still on the job. Richie Daley was State’s Attorney when the first case occurred and he’s just retired with a handsome pension.
What’s the law on this? It’s pretty clear that sovereign immunity has gone the way of the dodo. Shouldn’t the police violating official practice be an absolute defense for the city in both cases? Then there’s the justice issue. Do the settlements increase the total amount of justice? I don’t see how. They’re still injured. They haven’t been made whole. The guilty still go unpunished. More innocents, the people of the city of Chicago, are being punished. Spreading injustice around doesn’t produce more justice, it produces more injustice.
I agree with 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins, quoted in the article cited above: where does it end? When do we start punishing the people who are actually guilty?