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Target Of Police Exam Cheating Probe Could Retire Before Being Questioned

By Mark Konkol | April 22, 2016 6:09am
 Deputy Chief Eugene Williams, who is the target of a probe into alleged cheating on a Police Department promotion exam, could retire in May before being questioned by city Inspector General Joe Ferguson (l).
Deputy Chief Eugene Williams, who is the target of a probe into alleged cheating on a Police Department promotion exam, could retire in May before being questioned by city Inspector General Joe Ferguson (l).
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CHICAGO — Deputy Chief Eugene Williams, the man at the center of an investigation into Chicago Police Department lieutenants exam cheating allegations, is set to retire next month when he turns 63, the Police Department’s mandatory retirement age.

That raises an important question for city Inspector General Joe Ferguson: Will Williams make it to his retirement party before being interrogated by city investigators?  

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

So far, Ferguson has remained mum about when, or if, he will question Williams about allegations before the deputy chief retires in May.

The cheating allegations first surfaced nine months before the lieutenants exam in a November 2014 Internal Affairs confidential complaint report.

The report said Williams, an exam “subject matter expert” who signed an agreement promising to keep test details confidential, of running an exam study group at police headquarters. It questioned whether his presence gave a select group of sergeants — including the wife of the Police Department’s then-second in command and current police Supt. Eddie Johnson’s fiancee — an unfair advantage on the lieutenants exam, documents obtained by DNAinfo Chicago show.

Police sources say that complaint, which stemmed from an anonymous tip, was dismissed without being investigated.

Ferguson opened an investigation into the same allegations in February after a Police Department employee sent a mass email that aimed to put his colleagues on notice that the exam was “fixed” and “to hopefully shame whoever the new superintendent is to revamping the entire promotional process to bring integrity to it.”

So far, the probe has been limited to collecting documents, including emails and text messages, sources familiar with the probe told DNAinfo Chicago.

Neither Williams nor the three newly minted lieutenants said to have attended the study group, who all scored high enough to be immediately promoted, have been interviewed by inspector general investigators, the sources said.

Ferguson, a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force, has to know that delays in police misconduct investigations are one of the problems that help cops evade punishment and help harbor the “Thin Blue Line” code of silence in the department.  

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Chicago police officer under investigation saved a reputation — and, more importantly, a pension — by retiring before a final ruling is made at a Chicago Police Board termination hearing.

Here’s one example that I’ve written about: Former Police Sgt. Thomas O'Grady  was never called to appear for a final separation hearing based on an Independent Police Review Authority 2009 recommendation that he be terminated for beating a handcuffed man and lying to cover it up.

In November 2010, then-Supt. Jody Weis asked the board to drop the charges against O'Grady because the accused sergeant had filed retirement papers the month before. The Police Board granted the superintendent's request.

If Williams — one of three Chicago Police Board finalists for the top cop job earlier this year — makes it to the mandatory retirement age without at least being questioned about the cheating allegations by the inspector general’s investigator, certain cynical Chicagoans might think Ferguson is letting the deputy chief off the hook.

Conspiracy theorists might accuse the inspector general — who was at odds with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and appeared to be in jeopardy of losing his $161,856 job until their dispute over Ferguson’s power to enforce subpoenas was resolved in the mayor’s favor by a 2013 court ruling — of doing the boss a favor by taking his time on the cheating probe.

Now, there’s an excellent chance that the cynics and conspiracy theorists might be completely off base about Ferguson’s motivation for holding off on interrogating Williams as his retirement day nears.

The best way to prove them wrong is to expedite the investigation and determine if the cheating allegations are true before the deputy chief plans his retirement party.

In times like these, when Chicagoans are clamoring for police accountability and a department they can trust, our city deserves that much.

Right, Joe?

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