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Arrested again and again, still a Chicago cop — Tarnished Badges

Officer Richard A. Rizzo, seen in December 2011 Chicago Police Department mug shot, has been arrested four times — by his own department.

A WATCHDOGS SPECIAL REPORT, PART 3 OF 3: Officers have remained on the Chicago Police Department despite being charged with crimes including battery, assault and child endangerment

Over the past seven years, Chicago police Officer Richard A. Rizzo has been arrested four times by fellow members of his department. The charges included domestic battery, child endangerment and aggravated assault with a gun.

Each time, officers booked Rizzo and took his mug shot. Each time, prosecutors filed criminal charges against him.

And each time, prosecutors ended up dropping the charges against the 15-year police veteran.

There’s no public record showing Rizzo ever has been disciplined for violating Chicago Police Department rules and regulations, which generally target officers who break the law or otherwise bring discredit upon the department.

So Rizzo, 44, is still a member of the department, making $80,724 a year, records show.

But the department says Rizzo was relieved of his police powers on June 13 — six days after the Chicago Sun-Times asked about his status.

Rizzo is among the fraternity of Chicago cops who, despite repeated run-ins with the law, have continued working for the department.

Some have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes — including assault and battery and theft. By law, the police department can’t employ convicted felons.

Just how many officers have misdemeanor convictions, the department won’t say. Three have been convicted of misdemeanors since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in May 2011, but the department won’t say how many others were convicted before then and remain on the job.

The department has stripped 74 officers of their police powers. Sixteen of them have been suspended without pay, and five have taken a leave of absence.

The other 53, including Rizzo, are on “call back” — working desk jobs. That’s less than one half-percent of the department’s workforce, according to a spokesman for police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

A former police superintendent, Jody Weis, says, based on what he’s seen, “I’m pretty sure you can survive a misdemeanor conviction but not a felony.”

During his three-year stint as superintendent, Weis tried to get 66 police department employees fired. Of those, 19 ended up being fired by the Chicago Police Board — a nine-member panel of mayoral appointees.

“It was frustrating,” Weis says of being unable to rid the department of officers he saw as bad cops. “Oftentimes, these guys are recidivists, where they’ll go out and embarrass the department again.”

Officer Richard A. Rizzo’s booking mug after his Sept. 7, 2005, arrest. | Chicago Police Department
Officer Richard A. Rizzo’s booking mug after his Sept. 7, 2005, arrest. | Chicago Police Department

But no Chicago police superintendent ever asked the police board to fire or otherwise discipline Rizzo, who has gotten seven pay raises since the first time his fellow officers arrested him nearly eight years ago.

That was on Sept. 7, 2005. Rizzo was charged with domestic battery after his live-in girlfriend accused him of pulling her out of his car, dragging her in to their apartment and slamming her against the floor of their bedroom. “Victim had numerous bruises and lacerations about the body,” the police report said.

Officer Richard A. Rizzo’s booking mug after his Dec. 30, 2010, arrest. | Chicago Police Department
Officer Richard A. Rizzo’s booking mug after his Dec. 30, 2010, arrest. | Chicago Police Department

Five years later, on Dec. 30, 2010, Rizzo was arrested for aggravated assault with a gun and domestic battery after a fight with a 40-year-old man and the man’s 18-year-old son. Both of them lived with Rizzo in a Garfield Ridge bungalow. The arresting officers said Rizzo punched the older man, grabbed the gun, put the muzzle in the man’s eye and told him, “How about I shoot you in the face?”

A month later, on Jan. 31, 2011, Rizzo was arrested again, this time for domestic battery, after officers said he grabbed his girlfriend “by her throat and began to strangle her.” The arresting officers said she broke away and locked herself in a bedroom. They said Rizzo kicked in the door just before they arrived.

Officer Richard A. Rizzo in booking mug after his Jan. 31, 2011, arrest. | Chicago Police Department
Officer Richard A. Rizzo in booking mug after his Jan. 31, 2011, arrest. | Chicago Police Department

The officers “photographed alleged injuries to victim and damage to the bedroom door,” and the incident was referred to the city’s Independent Police Review Authority for investigation.

It’s unclear what came of that review because even when IPRA recommends that an officer be fired, it’s barred from identifying the officer.

On Dec. 6, 2011, the police arrested Rizzo for child endangerment, accusing him of leaving his 8-year-old son home alone for two to three hours. When police interviewed Rizzo a week later, they wrote afterward, he “did not inquire as to the well-being of [his son], however asked several times how this incident would impact his job with the Chicago Police Department.”

Attempts to reach Rizzo were unsuccessful.

Among the other cases in which former Chicago cops had multiple run-ins with the law but continued working for the department:

May 19, 2008, arrest photo of Chicago police Officer Gerald W. Callahan. | Niles Police Department
May 19, 2008, arrest photo of Chicago police Officer Gerald W. Callahan. | Niles Police Department

• Officer Gerald W. Callahan Jr., who quit last October, ending an 18-year police career a month after Supt. Garry McCarthy moved to fire him over a 2008 assault arrest at a Niles bar.

Callahan already had served two suspensions — one for 30 days for being drunk while off-duty in 2004 — when he was arrested for aggravated assault in an earlier incident, on March 25, 2006. In that incident, Callahan was on duty at the city’s 311 non-emergency call center and lunged at and threatened a sergeant and mouthed off to other superiors who wanted him to take a Breathalyzer test, according to police board records.

“You are lucky he’s here, or I would hurt you more,” those documents say Callahan told the sergeant.

“You can tell that rat mother – – – – – – . . . that I swear on Ireland I will rip his f – – -ing head off and p – – – down his f – – – ing throat,” Callahan is quoted as telling other cops during that incident. “I swear to God I’ll kill the son of a b – – – -.”

Then-Supt. Phil Cline asked the police board after that incident to fire Callahan, the son of a Chicago cop who has since retired. Instead, Callahan was given an 18-month suspension, which ended on Feb. 15, 2008.

Three months later, Callahan was armed and off-duty when he was arrested for battery in Niles. He was accused of punching a 61-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman inside a bar in the 6800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue. Niles officers, with the help of a police dog, found Callahan hiding in nearby bushes.

Callahan complained to them of chest pains, and they called for paramedics. While waiting for paramedics, the Niles cops said Callahan told them, “I can’t believe you would do this to another officer. I’m going to sue you and own your house, you mother——.”

Callahan was convicted of two counts of battery, sentenced to 60 days in the Cook County Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program and ordered to pay a $1,325 fine. Now 47, he will be eligible for a police pension when he turns 50.

Chicago Police Department booking photo of Sigmund Naszke after Aug. 27, 2007, arrest.
Chicago Police Department booking photo of Sigmund Naszke after Aug. 27, 2007, arrest.

• Sigmund Naszke Jr., whose police disciplinary record cites a “robbery” in October 2002 but doesn’t indicate whether he was ever arrested or disciplined for it. At that time, he had been a cop for four years.

Later, in August 2004, the police pulled over Naszke’s BMW after he allegedly struck a woman on a sidewalk outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital on a Sunday afternoon during the Chicago Air & Water Show. Naszke, who was off-duty, said he was trying to take his girlfriend to the hospital, but he never did, police board records show.

Cline moved to fire Naszke on April 27, 2006. Nearly a year later, the police board agreed — citing as part of its reasoning that Naszke had made racially insensitive remarks to the woman he’d hit with his car, who was black. Naszke appealed his firing in court but lost.

• Richard S. Teresi, who had two run-ins with fellow Chicago cops that prompted two different superintendents to try to fire him.

Teresi was involved in a shooting at a building he owned in the 5100 block of North Elston Avenue on July 28, 2004. Teresi witnessed the shooting but failed to take action, then lied to police about what happened, police board records show.

While Teresi’s actions were still under investigation, he was arrested on Jan. 12, 2006, and charged with having an unregistered gun and running illegal card games and video gambling in the building on Elston.

On March 3, 2006, Cline asked the police board to fire Teresi over the shooting. Instead, the board gave Teresi a one-year suspension, saying Cline didn’t prove Teresi had seen the shooting.

Teresi’s suspension ended on March 8, 2007. Weeks later, on April 20, 2007, acting police Supt. Dana Starks moved to fire Teresi over the gun and gambling allegations. This time, the board fired Teresi — because he had an unregistered weapon. It found there was insufficient evidence to prove Teresi had knowingly permitted gambling on his property.

Though the criminal charges against him were dismissed, Teresi lost a court battle to get his job back.

Callahan, Naszke and Teresi couldn’t be reached for comment.