Chicago Police officers continue to abuse parking privileges, inspector general says

Inspector General Joe Ferguson says Chicago police officers continue to use police placards to park illegally around City Hall and near Soldier Field and Wrigley Field.

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A sign advertising off-street parking for a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Parking can be pricey near Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game, but some cops have a way around that — and Inspector General Joe Ferguson isn’t happy about it.

Sun-Times file photo

Chicago police officers are continuing to flout the law they’re charged with enforcing — and creating a potential safety hazard — by using police placards to park illegally around City Hall and near Soldier Field and Wrigley Field, Inspector General Joe Ferguson charged Tuesday.

Ferguson said preferential parking schemes still run rampant two years after he pressured the Chicago Police Department to issue a directive demanding that police-issued placards be used only at designated locations and only by authorized officers for official police business.

On “multiple occasions between April 2016 and October 2018,” Ferguson said his investigators “observed vehicles displaying First District parking placards” illegally parked “beneath fire escapes and beside emergency exit doors” in an alleyway across the street from City Hall.

Many of the vehicles defying signs that read, “Fire Lane. No Parking. Tow Away Zone” belonged to “CPD officers and friends of . . . officers,” Ferguson wrote, in an advisory issued Tuesday.

On May 21, 2018, the inspector general’s office also received a complaint about preferential parking provided to off-duty officers and non-police personnel, “including a former alderman,” to park free at the 19th District police station — just two blocks from Wrigley Field — during Cubs night games.

“The OIG obtained ‘Daily Parking Pass’ sign-in sheets created by CPD personnel for May 11, 2018 through May 13, 2018 for parking passes issued to drivers on a ‘first-come, first-serve basis,’” the advisory states.

“The sign-in sheets state, ‘For CPD ONLY’ and list the date, start time for the Cubs game, CPD and non-CPD members’ name, vehicle make and license plate number for each vehicle that parked” in the 19th District lot.

Prior to a Bears home game on Dec. 16, 2018, investigators also observed “non-CPD vehicles drive into and park in” the lot at the 1st District station, 1718 S. State St., three blocks from Soldier Field.

“Men, women, children and senior citizens wearing Chicago Bears attire exited these vehicles and walked out of the parking lot in the direction of Soldier Field,” the advisory states.

“OIG further observed CPD placards displayed in the windshields of these vehicles, which were registered to CPD personnel and non-CPD individuals.”

Inspector General Joe Ferguson has been beating the drum about police parking abuses for years.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson has been beating the drum about police parking abuses for years. He’s still doing it because the Chicago Police Department hasn’t cracked the whip enough.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The police department responded to the latest abuses by retrieving parking placards, prohibiting parking in the alley across the street from City Hall and reiterating to officers that reserved parking at police lots is for on-duty personnel only.

But without patrolling the lots, the door is still wide open for parking abuse, Ferguson said.

“The lack of enforcement of city municipal code and CPD’s directive presents an image that CPD does not have to adhere to policies and procedures and that rules don’t apply to sworn personnel,” Ferguson wrote in a news release accompanying his advisory.

“When departments choose not to comply with the municipal code, it sends a message to city employees as well as the communities they serve.”

Two years ago, Ferguson unmasked a similar preferential parking scheme at Bulls and Blackhawks games executed by eight supervisors and traffic control aides working at the city’s 911 emergency center.

Last year, a high-ranking Chicago Police officers and a lieutenant working under that deputy chief were accused of using their clout to “reserve and provide free parking at the United Center for off-duty cops, their family and friends.”

The second scheme paved the way for those with clout to park on the north and south sides of Monroe Street between Wood Street and Paulina during the Blackhawks 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Chicago Police Department reprimanded the chief, but declined to discipline the lieutenant on grounds that he or she “followed the directions of the deputy chief in good faith.”

The Bureau of Internal Affairs also conducted a review of the officers who benefited from the preferential parking scheme, but decided not to discipline those parkers on grounds that the review “did not establish that these CPD members believed the parking to be unauthorized or in violation of the law.”

An administrative message to CPD members at the time was supposed to eliminate parking abuses. But, it didn’t, the inspector general said.

“The blatant disregard of the directive perpetuates the appearance that CPD members are exempt from the law and provide special treatment to friends and family,” Ferguson wrote.

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