Chicago’s top cop says he made decision to pull officers from street after heroin bust involving internal affairs chief’s car

Supt. David Brown on Wednesday said the cops were moved from their normal assignments ‘until we fully understand the conduct of every officer involved.’

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Retiring Chicago Police Department First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio swears in newly-promoted Area 1 Deputy Chief of Operations Yolanda Talley during a promotion ceremony at CPD headquarters, Wednesday morning, July 15, 2020. Talley has since been promoted to internal affairs chief.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After weeks of avoiding questions on the issue, Chicago police Supt. David Brown acknowledged Wednesday that he made the decision to pull officers off the street after they stopped a car belonging to the head of internal affairs during a drug bust.

“Until we fully understand all of the conduct of every officer involved is why we pulled them,” Brown said during an unrelated news conference. “We’ll take whatever action the inspector general’s report reveals.”

One of the main questions surrounding the Feb. 1 bust was why the officers were put on what police sources have called “soft” desk duty.

Other key questions remain. They include why the car, which belonged to Internal Affairs Chief Yolanda Talley, wasn’t impounded and why Talley’s niece, who was driving the car, wasn’t arrested.

John Catanzara, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, wondered why rank-and-file officers got pulled off the street but their bosses didn’t.

“Does that include the upper ranks that had the private meeting in Homan Square?” Catanzara said in an emailed reaction to Brown’s comments Wednesday. Catanzara was referring to the West Side police facility where the officers are assigned.

Brown didn’t address the issues of the car not being impounded or Talley’s niece not being arrested, saying, “We are not commenting any further on the investigation.”

Late last month, Brown was asked whether he or anyone in his command staff was involved in decisions involving the drug bust and replied, “Of course I wasn’t on the scene making any of these decisions.“

“The officers made those decisions,” he said at the time. “And I have yet to see anything to show me that — I have mentioned in my comments that I will not go further on — that there was any misconduct.”

A Feb. 2 report the Sun-Times obtained Wednesday through the Freedom of Information Act shows that police bosses were on the phone discussing the bust just minutes afterward.

Deputy Chief Gilberto Calderon called Counterterrorism Chief Ernest Cato about 26 minutes after the stop. In a report Cato filed with Brown the next day, he said Calderon told him that Talley’s niece was driving the car when her passenger, Kenneth Miles, 34, tossed 84 baggies of heroin from the car before being arrested on drug charges.

In their phone call, Calderon also told Cato that when officers asked for the niece’s identification, she refused and told them “her aunt is their boss,” according to the Feb. 2 “initiation report” that Cato sent Brown to let him know the matter was referred to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability for investigation.

COPA, in turn, kicked the investigation to the inspector general’s office because it was outside the agency’s jurisdiction.

Police body-worn camera footage shows Talley’s niece warned the officers as she tried to retrieve her belongings from the car. The footage also shows Talley responded affirmatively when an officer asked whether her license was “good.”

But as first reported by WGN-TV, that wasn’t true. Talley’s license was suspended last June after she failed to pay off a nearly $10,000 settlement that stemmed from a car crash three years earlier on the West Side, according to Cook County court records and the Illinois secretary of state’s office.

Talley’s niece wasn’t patted down during the incident and ultimately “went on her way” without providing her license, according to an “investigatory stop report.”

A source with knowledge of the case has told the Sun-Times that officers initially took Talley’s Lexus to the police department’s Homan Square facility, knowing it belonged to her. At one point in the body-worn camera footage, an officer shows a pair of keys attached to what appears to be a miniature police star.

The source said the car was returned to the niece without being impounded, even though police routinely impound cars stopped during narcotics arrests and search them for guns and drugs.

A supplementary report related to Miles’ arrest states Talley’s Lexus was returned to her niece because she “did not have any knowledge of said narcotics being inside the vehicle.” Body-worn video shows packets of drugs strewn on the passenger seat.

The decision not to impound Talley’s car was made following conversations between high-ranking police officials, a source said. Another police source previously said the decision could have come only from Brown, First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter or Cato.

Contributing: David Struett

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