Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo on Monday accused the Chicago Police Department of violating the due process of seven officers who stand to lose their jobs for allegedly covering up the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
In his long-awaited response to a scathing report by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has moved to fire the seven officers for allegedly violating Rule 14.
That’s the “If you lie, you die” rule that prohibits officers from filing false reports or lying under oath during the course of an investigation.
Angelo complained that none of the seven officers have been told how they lied. That, he said, is a violation of due process.
“They committed a Rule 14 violation based on what? What specifically did they do? What did they say? What did they write that puts them in that category? I don’t know. They don’t know,” Angelo said.
“No one is being served with specifics of what they did wrong. No one told them, `You said this and you should have said that.’ Is that fair? Is that what we’re looking at now? Everybody is concerned about `transparency.’ That’s the new word of the day. Where’s the transparency of this?”
Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, said that under the city’s contract with the officers, the department will provide them with a breakdown of their potential rule violations once administrative charges for separation are formally brought before the Chicago Police Board, which determines punishment for cops.
“Last week, the Bureau of Internal Affairs met with each of the Chicago Police officers to notify them they were being relieved of their police powers for possible rule violations following the Inspector General’s investigation into the Laquan McDonald case,” Guglielmi said.
“The Chicago Police Department is committed to the highest levels of transparency and works very hard to balance the release of information with the integrity of investigations and the public’s right to know,” he said.
Angelo said the FOP will represent all seven officers before the police board. He said their defense is being hampered by the union’s inability to get its hands on the inspector general’s report.
“From what I understand, the report is 15,000 pages long. Everyone is concerned about transparency, but no one else has eyes on that report,” Angelo said.
“It’s very frustrating when we have no specifics. Everyone is reaching [and saying], ‘They don’t comply with the video.’ But there’s something called `due process.’ It’s hard to go through allegations when we don’t know the specifics. We have got everybody represented at this stage. We will be going forward and representing them once we know what we’re representing them for.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Ferguson recommended that 10 officers be fired for giving accounts of the McDonald shooting that did not jibe with a dashcam video that shows white police officer Jason Van Dyke unloading 16 rounds while the black teenager was walking away from police with a knife in his hand.
Three days later, Johnson followed Ferguson’s recommendation by moving to fire seven of the officers, including Van Dyke’s partner Joseph Walsh.
Two others, including Deputy Chief David McNaughton, resigned last week.
Johnson “respectfully disagreed” with Ferguson’s recommendation on the tenth officer, arguing there was “insufficient evidence to prove” a Rule 14 violation.
Sources identified the police officer spared the ax as a woman. Several female officers were mentioned in the police reports issued by the city earlier this year.
McNaughton was the incident commander in charge of the shooting scene on Oct. 20, 2014, the night when McDonald was killed.
He found that Van Dyke’s use of force was proper. McNaughton had written that McDonald was approaching Van Dyke when he was shot and the officer was in fear for his life.
Van Dyke’s partner, Walsh, said McDonald continued to advance on them, ignoring commands to drop a knife in his hand. He swung the knife at the officers in an “aggressive manner” when he was 12 to 15 feet away, Walsh told investigators.
But a video from a police vehicle showed that the knife-wielding McDonald was walking away from the officers — parallel to them — when he was shot by Van Dyke.
Van Dyke was charged with murder on Nov. 24, 2015, the same day the city released the video to the public. The charges stemmed from a separate investigation by the Cook County state’s attorney and FBI.
The recommended firings of the seven officers do not end the inspector general’s investigation, sources have told the Sun-Times. Ferguson will now turn to what then-Supt. Garry McCarthy and his executive staff knew about the discrepancies between the video and police officers’ accounts, and what they did about it.
Although Van Dyke was immediately stripped of his police powers and placed on desk duty after McCarthy viewed the video, the inspector general will look into why other officers — including the ones who Johnson recommends firing — were not also placed on desk duty pending an investigation of their actions.
In December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized for the “systematic breakdown” that culminated in the “totally avoidable” police shooting death of McDonald and acknowledged the “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department he once tried to keep out of a court record.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, has argued that the alleged cover-up of the Laquan McDonald shooting is the latest and most egregious example of that code of silence.
Sawyer said last week he will not be satisfied until police brass who saw the dashcam video on Oct. 21, 2014, the day after Laquan McDonald was killed, also are held accountable.
On Monday, Emanuel was asked whether he agrees with Sawyer.
“I’m going to be cautious [about] the mayor speaking up about what other investigations should be done. They’ll be done on the merits and whether they’re worthy,” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference to tout the early installation of air-conditioners in Chicago Public Schools.
“I think the superintendent took the right actions. [I] gave him the latitude to take the right actions that he thinks was appropriate and he made clear that the ultimate goal here is to restore trust in the police department and to also restore trust with the community, because that’s ultimately how we get public safety.”