Even when a Chicago cop is convicted of wrongdoing, a secret appeals court usually overturns it

Chicago boasts one of the nation's most corrupt police forces: Chicago PD ran an off-the-books secret torture site; stole millions from innocents and used the funds to buy illegal surveillance gear; has more than 125,000 outstanding abuse complaints; conducted an illegal extortion racket and a coverup that went to the highest levels; is systemically racist and corrupt; a force that tolerates cops who cover up and celebrate murder (no surprise that the force trained the ex-Gitmo torturer who beat Dr David Dao unconscious for refusing to give up his seat on a United flight).

Such a system does not spring up of its own accord: it requires that corruption be shot through at every level and in every process. One egregious example of this corruption is the secret appeals process by which police officers who are convicted of wrongdoing can have those convictions silently overturned, their records expunged, and their punishments waived.

A joint investigation by the Chicago Tribune and Propublica (I am an annual donor to Propublica; you should consider giving) found that 85% of police disciplinary cases that are taken to the Chicago Police Department's grievance process ended in reduced consequences for convicted officers, and in many cases, the punishments were "overturned entirely."

Thus, officers who beat up handcuffed arrestees on camera; who used racist epithets during traffic tops, and made false statements escaped with no punishment whatsoever.

The system is extremely dysfunctional, resulting in delays that are so long that many officers simply have all charges waived because they are deemed to have waited too long (it's easy to see how the CPD might see this dysfunction as a feature, rather than a bug).

During the past seven years, the department has settled 151 cases, the Tribune-ProPublica Illinois analysis shows. More than 75 percent of suspensions from those cases were cut by half or more through negotiations.

In addition, some of the settlements include an agreement to drop one of the most serious findings against an officer: a violation of police Rule 14, making a false oral or written statement. Department officials have said they have zero tolerance for officers who aren't truthful, and that those who violate the rule will be fired.

But the Tribune-ProPublica Illinois investigation found that, since 2010, the city has negotiated settlements with at least 19 officers that included expunging from their records findings that they had given false statements during an investigation. About half of the violations were tied to excessive force cases or issues during arrests.

The discipline recommendations in these Rule 14 cases were all made prior to the current police administration, and the department said that it now moves to fire officers who violate Rule 14, so they are not able to file a grievance to dispute it.

A violation of police Rule 14 is problematic not only for the officer, but also for the department and the city. Lawyers have ammunition to challenge an officer's credibility in court, and the officer might be viewed as dishonest in other aspects of the job, making it difficult to keep him on the street.

Chicago Police Win Big When Appealing Discipline [Jennifer Smith Richards/Chicago Tribune, and Jodi S. Cohen/ProPublica]

(via Naked Capitalism)