In 17 years as a Chicago cop, Richard A. Rizzo has been investigated 29 times over accusations he violated police department rules.
He’s been suspended seven times — for a total of 52 days — and has three additional disciplinary cases still pending.
He’s been arrested four times — by his own department — on charges that include domestic battery, child endangerment and aggravated assault with a gun, with Cook County prosecutors dropping the charges each time.
And he’s been pulled off the street and stripped of his police powers twice in the past three years.
Now, more than a decade after the officer’s first suspension, Supt. Garry McCarthy is moving to fire Rizzo, who was a subject of the Chicago Sun-Times’ “Tarnished Badges” investigation last year.
McCarthy wants him fired over a Dec. 2, 2012, incident in which the police say Rizzo got into a “physical altercation” with his fiancée at a gas station at 7900 S. Cicero in Burbank after taking part in a Toy for Tots motorcycle parade. The fiancée grabbed his police 9mm Ruger handgun from his motorcycle’s storage bin and threw it onto Cicero Avenue. She then ran into the street, grabbed the gun, brought it back to the gas station and stepped on it when Rizzo tried to retrieve it. A gas station customer picked up the gun and handed it back to Rizzo.
On Oct. 6, McCarthy asked the Chicago Police Board to fire Rizzo over the incident, filing disciplinary charges that accuse Rizzo of failing to secure his weapon, “inattention to duty” and bringing “discredit upon the department.” The board is reviewing the case against Rizzo, who’s now suspended without pay from his $80,724-a-year job.
As with most disciplinary cases filed against Chicago cops, this latest one involving Rizzo had been kept secret until Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration agreed in July to release the police department’s “complaint register” files. That followed an Illinois Appellate Court ruling that the public is entitled to see such records.
The Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have since sought logs summarizing all police misconduct cases going back to 1967.
But the city’s largest police union has gone to court to prevent that. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 has filed suit to block City Hall from releasing information on cases more than 4 years old or involving off-duty misconduct.
Six of Rizzo’s suspensions involved off-duty incidents.
Rizzo, 45, wouldn’t comment. Here’s a look at his disciplinary cases and arrests, based on police and court records:
Jan. 27, 2000 — An off-duty Rizzo got into a drunken “physical altercation” with a woman in her mid-40s at 2:30 a.m., and Cook County sheriff’s police physically removed him from the conflict. Rizzo, who wasn’t charged, was suspended for five days. The case was closed on Oct. 20, 2003, under police Supt. Phil Cline.
Dec. 3, 2000 — While under investigation for that fight, Rizzo left home without permission while on medical leave. He was suspended for a day. The case was closed on Sept. 21, 2001, under Supt. Terry Hillard.
Oct. 27, 2001 — While Rizzo was still under investigation for the same fight, a convicted felon died of a drug overdose while sleeping on the couch in an apartment Rizzo shared with someone. Rizzo’s roommate — another convicted felon — told investigators he’d known Rizzo for a year and lived with him for five months but never told him he’d been in prison. Police rules bar cops from fraternizing with criminals. But investigators decided they couldn’t prove Rizzo knew his roommate was a felon. So he got only a two-day suspension — for failing to report his current address and phone number to the police department. The case was closed on Jan. 9, 2003, under Hillard.
Sept. 7, 2005 — Rizzo was charged with domestic battery after his live-in girlfriend accused him of pulling her out of his car at 2 a.m., dragging her into their Garfield Ridge apartment and slamming her against their bedroom floor, saying, “If I can’t have you, nobody will!” according to a police report that notes the “victim had numerous bruises and lacerations about the body.” Prosecutors dropped the case on Sept. 22, 2005, and the police never disciplined Rizzo, saying his girlfriend wouldn’t cooperate. The case was closed on April 24, 2006, under Cline.
Dec. 5, 2008 — Rizzo, assigned to the lockup at the 11th District police station, left at the end of his shift at 6 a.m. without filing a report about an inmate who had been Tasered. A sergeant went to Rizzo’s house and ordered him to immediately come back to work, but Rizzo instead went back to bed. On Aug. 12, 2013, McCarthy recommended a 15-day suspension. Rizzo is appealing the suspension to the police board, a nine-member panel of mayoral appointees.
March 22, 2009 — Rizzo reported someone stole his 2008 Dodge — and two handguns, his hat shield and body armor, all left in the car. Investigators determine the car was repossessed. Rizzo was suspended for three days for failing to secure his guns and hat shield. The case was closed April 19, 2010, under Supt. Jody Weis.
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, who lived with Rizzo in a bungalow in Garfield Ridge. The police said Rizzo punched the older man, grabbed the gun, put the muzzle to his eye and said, “How about I shoot you in the face?” The department stripped Rizzo of his police powers on Jan. 11, 2011. He was put back on active duty on Oct. 6, 2012. Prosecutors dropped the charges on Jan. 14, 2011. Rizzo got a 30-day suspension. The case was closed this June 16 under McCarthy.
Jan. 31, 2011 — A month after being charged with aggravated assault, Rizzo was arrested for domestic battery. The police said he grabbed his girlfriend “by her throat and began to strangle her” at the Garfield Ridge bungalow. Officers photographed “alleged injuries to the victim” and damage to a bedroom door. Prosecutors dropped the charges the same day. Rizzo was suspended for 10 days. The case was closed on Nov. 5, 2013, under McCarthy.
May 9, 2011 — The police Internal Affairs Division opened another case against Rizzo stemming from the Jan. 31, 2011, incident. The police won’t release the case file, citing an ongoing investigation.
Dec. 6, 2011 — Rizzo was charged with child endangerment after the police said he left his 8-year-old son home alone for more than two hours in Clearing. Prosecutors dropped the charges on March 26, 2012. McCarthy suspended Rizzo for a day, closing the case on Nov. 5, 2013.
Dec. 2, 2012 — Rizzo’s gun ended up on the street in Burbank during the argument with his fiancée — the case that could cost him his job.