Chicago to Pay $2 Million to Police Whistle-Blowers After “Few Bad Apples” Destroyed Their Careers
On Monday, Chicago’s City Council Finance Committee approved a settlement of $2 million to two police officers that were the targets of extensive and widespread retaliation after they exposed corruption within the police department. Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria had gone to the FBI back in 2007 after they were told by superiors to ignore illegal activity by Ronald Watts, a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department.
After Watts was convicted of extorting drug dealers and sentenced to prison, Spalding and Echeverria became targeted for retaliation throughout the department. This included threats of physical violence against them, ostracization, and overt attempts to ruin their careers. According to their accounts of the retaliation they experienced, it’s almost as if the “Few Bad Apples” were the ones running the entire police department and somehow outnumbered all of the “Good Cops” we hear so much about.
Via the Chicago Sun-Times:
Spalding and Echeverria allege they were retaliated against for helping to expose police corruption nearly a decade ago.
The partners had alleged their superiors told them in 2007 to ignore evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Sgt. Ronald Watts. Instead, on personal time, they said they reported it to the FBI.
What the officers thought would end with a simple meeting eventually turned into “Operation Brass Tax.” And while they tried to limit their involvement in the investigation to personal time, it became so time-consuming that the officers were forced to tell CPD’s internal affairs. As a result, they were formally detailed to the FBI.
Spalding and Echeverria spent two years working exclusively on the Watts investigation. Watts was sentenced in October 2013 to 22 months in prison for shaking down drug dealers.
But lawyers for the two officers say Internal Affairs Chief Juan Rivera blew their cover. Spalding and Echeverria were branded “rat motherf——” and told their bosses didn’t want them in their units. They were allegedly told their careers were over, given undesirable assignments and shifts and told fellow officers wouldn’t back them up. Their actions allegedly made the brass so angry that Spalding was warned to “wear her vest” so she wouldn’t be shot in the parking lot for crossing the thin blue line.
“One of the defendants … charged with some of the retaliatory conduct resigned in December of 2015 before the Police Department initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for his role in the re-investigation of the David Koschman case,” (First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jenny) Notz told aldermen Monday.
“Also in 2015, a key CPD witness who would have rebutted some of the plaintiffs’ most serious allegations of retaliation relating to their experiences in the Narcotic Unit was indicted on felony perjury charges relating to testimony that he gave in another case. … The police superintendent recommended [in March] that this officer be terminated.”
Notz added, “The plaintiffs would certainly, if this case went to trial, use these recent developments to attack the credibility of two of the defense’s key witnesses at trial, making this case difficult to win.”
The settlement was reached one day before Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have been forced to testify at their civil trial. This has spurred speculation that the settlement was really intended to keep Emanuel from having to testify about a code of silence within the CPD, that he has already publicly acknowledged.