Editorial: Cop in offensive photo should never get his job back

SHARE Editorial: Cop in offensive photo should never get his job back
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Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called it just right.

For the sake of the police department’s reputation and its relationship with every Chicago resident, and also as a matter of plain common sense, McCarthy had no choice but to fire a police officer who had posed in an offensive and racially charged photograph, though the incident occurred years ago.

We trust the courts, now considering a suit by the officer, who wants his job back, will see it the same way.

And let’s hope the message gets through to every new Police Academy cadet — your every action for your entire career will reflect for better or worse on every other officer. Think hard before doing something utterly stupid.

EDITORIAL

The photo, taken between Oct. 14, 1999, and July 2, 2003, shows two white Chicago police officers holding rifles, kneeling like hunters on each side of a prone African-American who is wearing deer antlers on his head.

McCarthy has called the photo disgusting and despicable, and this is true, especially at a time when deadly encounters between police officers and black suspects have sparked nationwide protests.

One of the two officers, Jerome Finnigan, was fired long ago. In 2011, a federal judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison for, among other crimes, involvement in a murder-for-hire scheme. Finnigan was part of the discredited elite Special Operations Section that was disbanded in 2007.

But the other officer, Detective Timothy McDermott, also a member of SOS, says his involvement in the photo reflected only a momentary lapse in judgment in an otherwise commendable career. He wants his job back, and a court hearing is scheduled for next week.

It is disturbing that all members of the Police Board, often criticized as going too easy on officers accused of misdeeds, were not sufficiently offended. The board did decide to fire McDermott, but only by a vote of 5-4. Four of the commissioners thought a suspension would have been more appropriate, partly because there was no physical harm to the unidentified man in the photo. The board now has a new chairman, former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot, and we’re hoping that signals a wiser direction for the rest of board as well.

A big-city police department cannot tolerate — cannot risk — such dangerous foolishness.

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Former Chicago Police officers Jerome Finnegan, left, and Timothy McDermott.

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