CITY HALL — A new report charged the city was squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in defending and paying restitution for rogue cops and called on reforms to end the "blue code of silence" Thursday.
The University of Illinois at Chicago report, "Crime, Corruption and Cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department," was released just as the City Council was preparing final approval to pay $32.75 million to settle two high-profile cases of police misconduct.
Dick Simpson, a political-science professor and former maverick alderman, and John Hagedorn, professor of criminology, law and justice, analyzed more than 300 cases since 1960 where Chicago officers were convicted of crimes including murder, protecting drug dealers and lying about police torture.
Since 2003 alone, according to the report, the city has spent $82.5 million to defend police in charges of misconduct. It added that the city has paid $63.75 million on cases involving notorious Area 2 Cmdr. Jon Burge, now serving a four-year prison term for lying about police torture under his watch.
Simpson insisted the "blue code of silence" at the department that in part sustains corruption and misconduct was "still unchecked" and called for a completely revamped Police Board to oversee the department.
"Even when the superintendent of police recommends the firing of corrupt police officers, the Police Board overturns the superintendent in 63 percent of the cases," Simpson said. The Chicago Justice Project, he added, found that, in 20 percent of the cases involving sworn officers, the board returned the officer to work with no discipline whatsoever.
Simpson called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to either push for a publicly elected Police Board or completely overhaul it, similar to how he previously overhauled the Board of Ethics.
The report was welcomed by Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Ald. Joe Moore (49th).
"When we see substantive reports like this, it makes all the difference in the world," Fioretti said.
All three said they supported the vast majority of Chicago police officers, and Fioretti repeated his call for the city to hire 1,000 more officers. But Fioretti added that he would push for the report's recommendations, including the new Police Board and the requirement that officers report wrongdoing by their colleagues to end the "code of silence" found to exist in the case of the infamous beating of a bartender by officer Anthony Abbate.
Simpson allowed that much of the police corruption took place under the administrations of Mayor Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. Daley, but said the onus was now on Emanuel to end business as usual, adding, "This mayor is going to have to answer to the problems that are continuing in this police department."