One year after the city of Chicago fired a police review investigator for finding several police shootings unjustified, the city continues to dish out millions of dollars in police brutality settlements, including $18.6 million so far this year.
The most recent settlements were approved last week; three cases totaling $4.72 million, including the last of 25 lawsuits stemming for a rogue cop named Jerome Finnigan.
But Finnigan, who is now serving time in prison, is hardly the only dirty cop responsible for the slew of lawsuits that have cost Chicago taxpayers more than $500 million over the past decade.
Chicago Aldermen expressed their frustration about the number of claims the city has settled so far this year.
But a city attorney said they should be relieved that the settlements are not even higher, given the number of police abuse lawsuits against the city.
“Both this administration and the prior administration, given the large number of cases, I think did pretty well with settling many of them for a small amount of money,” said First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jenny Notz, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The largest of Wednesday’s settlements was $3.75 million, which will go to the family of an intoxicated man named Esau Castellanos-Bernal, who was shot and killed after he crashed his vehicle in 2013.
Chicago police initially claimed they shot him after he fired at them, but that turned out to be a lie. Turns out, they were probably responding to the sound of his car backfiring because no gun was ever found on the scene.
The firefighter, Robert Cook, was beaten by Finnigan and other officers in front of his girlfriend and her children. Officers threatened Cook with planting drugs on him and charging him if he reported the incident. Cook reported the beating to the supervisor Ken Abels, who threatened him with the loss of his job for lying.
Finnigan was part of the now defunct Special Operations Section, a plain clothes swat team, who served warrants for violent offenders. The SOS team was dismantled after multiple controversies. Finnigan is now serving a 12 year sentence in an unrelated murder-for-hire plot, where he attempted to have another officer killed because he thought he was working as an informant for the FBI.
The Cook settlement is the last of the claims against the city involving Finnigan and the Special Operations Section totaling $1.93 million.
“I just wanted to underscore the point that this one man has cost the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money for gross misconduct and breaching the public trust,” said Alderman Brendan Reilly.
An additional settlement of $425,000 was agreed after a police chase injured Gentila Mitchell’s children as a vehicle was being chased by police. The driver of the vehicle lost control and struck her elder child, while the other child was injured when a light pole fell on him.
In December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated in a publicly televised interview that police engaged in a “code of silence” after the lengthy battle to prevent the release of the Laquan McDonald video. In the McDonald video, which the city fought the release for more than three years, was walking parallel to police when he was shot. The only officer to shoot claimed he had lunged at him with a knife, as other officers backed up his claim, which was disproved by the video.
The code of silence is so prevalent in the Windy City that in July 2015, it fired Independent Police Review Authority investigator Lorenzo Davis for finding fault with police in several shootings, then refusing to reverse those findings, claiming he displayed “clear bias against police.”
Davis was a former Chicago police commander.