As we’ve seen in recent months, the Chicago police are anything but honest when it comes to officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. In only a short period, multiple videos were released showing Chicago cops gun down men as they ran away – contradicting their original stories of having a gun pointed at them.
From revelations about the department operating a black site at Homan Square, to multiple incidents of police destruction of records, to officer’s general tendency for lying until video reveals otherwise — Chicago police could easily be described as a dangerous gang.
Last December, Spencer Ackerman, a reporter for The Guardian who exposed the Homan Square scandal, testified before the Cook County Commission revealing that more than 7,000 people had disappeared within the black site between August 2004 and June 2015. Instead of formally arresting suspects at Homan Square, Chicago cops are accused of shackling suspects to the wall for hours without bathroom breaks while violating their constitutional rights by threatening and beating them without the presence of an attorney.
In a lawsuit filed in October, Deanda Wilson alleged that Chicago Police Sgt. Frank Ramaglia held a knife to his throat during an interrogation. After Wilson repeatedly asked for his lawyer and bathroom privileges, he was later forced to urinate on himself while officers ignored his pleas for help. Transported to Cook County jail and incarcerated for 15 months awaiting trial, Wilson and his co-defendants were found not guilty after Judge William O’Brien determined the state failed to meet its burden of proof.
On October 20, 2012, CPD officers detained Angel Perez at Homan Square to convince him to turn into a police informant. According to a lawsuit filed by Perez, officers Jorge Lopez and Edmund Zablocki anally raped him with a gun to coerce his cooperation.
In September 2011, Jose Martinez was allegedly cuffed to a bench for nine hours at Homan Square without food, water, or the use of a restroom before being booked at an actual police station. In August 2006, Estephanie Martinez had to relieve herself in a Homan Square interrogation room when a guard repeatedly refused to take her to the bathroom. On February 6, Calvin Coffey defecated on the floor of an interrogation room after guards refused his requests to go to the bathroom for over two hours. According to his lawsuit, Coffey was ordered to clean it up with his skull cap.
Although John Hubbard entered Homan Square on February 2, 2013, he never walked out of the secret facility. Hubbard was later pronounced dead inside an interrogation room of an apparent heroin overdose. Officers at Homan Square have also been accused of injecting suspects with heroin to force confessions.
All of these misdeeds, and countless others have cost the Chicago taxpayers dearly.
According to city records, Chicago has paid a staggering sum — about $662 million — on police misconduct since 2004, including judgments, settlements and outside legal fees. In the last 11 years, or 4015 days, or 96,360 hours, the violence of the Chicago police has cost taxpayers $6,870 every hour of every day. This number is staggering.
According to ABC News, the Justice Department’s recent decision to investigate the Chicago police — fallout from the McDonald case — has helped focus new attention on this agonizing history of misconduct and the surprising lack of consequences. Few officers accused of wrongdoing have been disciplined in recent years.
Despite these massive payouts, Chicago cops are almost never convicted of crimes. At the beginning of this month, Chicago Police Officer Aldo Brown became one of the first cops to be prosecuted successfully in nearly a decade.
This is ludicrous. Instead of the officers being held accountable for their brutal actions — the citizens of Chicago are being extorted — at nearly $7,000 an hour.
While any attempts at reform may seem futile, there is one simple way to fix this problem — and it is already happening. Between July 2014 and July 2015, the number of police officers who bought the union’s liability insurance jumped 15 percent, according to data from the nation’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police.
As instances of police brutality and police killings continue to be exposed, there is no doubt that the US is in dire need of reform. The simple requirement for police to be insured for personal liability is an easy fix — especially to remove repeat offenders from the force.
All too often, when a tragic death, such as Tamir Rice, occurs, months later, we find out that the officer should have never been given a badge and a gun in the first place because of their past. However, insurance companies, who can’t fleece the taxpayers to pay for problem cops, would have to come out of pocket to pay for them, and would make sure that these officers are uninsurable.
If the officer becomes uninsurable, the officer becomes unhirable — simple as that.
There are likely many cops out there right now who an insurance company would not cover due to their track records. A requirement for personal liability insurance would, quite literally, weed out problem officers — overnight.
In 1994, City Pages published a story on police brutality within the Minneapolis Police Department, identifying a dozen cops whose histories of doling out beatings over the previous decade had cost the department $5.8 million in settlement payouts and court costs.
If officers were to carry their own professional liability insurance, insurance rates would increase for each misconduct case brought against an officer. That handful of officers who continue to abuse their power in uniform would be forced out, as their insurance rates would become too costly for them to remain in the department or they became uninsurable. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, general contractors and many others are required to pay for professional liability insurance– why not police officers?
If accountability and reduction in police abuses are to be achieved, clearly a new approach is needed. Requiring police officers to carry their own professional liability insurance and to pay for costs over the base rate is one step towards reaching these goals.