At Issue: Navigating the Police Union Contract Negotiations in Chicago
BY CURTIS BLACK
Contracts with unions representing police officers have come under sustained attention – particularly in reports from the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force and the U.S. Department of Justice — over the past year.
This week City Bureau is unveiling its #FOPtracker, annotating the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police with analysis, media reports, legal studies and academic research. In partnership with Invisible Institute, City Bureau’s Public Newsroom will host a guided discussion and workshop using the Tracker and local experts Thursday night in Woodlawn to provide context around the upcoming police union contract negotiation.
Negotiations are getting underway with unions representing Chicago Police Department sergeants, captains and lieutenants, whose contracts expired last year, the Chicago Reporter reported last month; the contract for officers expires on June 30.
PATF identified about a dozen contract provisions that are “unnecessary barriers to identifying and addressing police misconduct” and “out of step with national trends.” These include requirements that citizen making complaints sign affidavits; that officers be informed of complainants’ names; that officers be allowed to revise statements if they conflict with video evidence; that complaints more than five years old not be investigated without superintendent approval; and that most disciplinary records be destroyed after five years.
A 24-hour waiting period before civilian investigators can question police involved in shootings was among provisions cited as contributing to the department’s “code of silence” by giving officers time to coordinate stories. The Laquan McDonald case was one of many “where police officers give remarkably similar reports of incidents and later evidence makes clear that the reports were simply not true.”
According to the task force, the Independent Police Review Authority closed nearly 60 percent of cases because there was no affidavit, with overworked investigators often unable to track down complainants to get affidavits signed. And the Department of Justice reported, “We identified a significant number of incidents where the evidence supports concluding that CPD officers intimidated potential complainants or witnesses” — including filing “baseless police assault and battery charges” against them.
Reuters recently reviewed police union contracts in 82 cities and reported that most call for removing disciplinary records from officers’ files, and 20 (including Chicago) allow officers to substitute vacation time for disciplinary suspensions, so they suffer no loss in pay.
Reuters highlighted a provision in the Fraternal Order of Police contract with CPD that protects officers found drinking on the job from being disciplined.
According to police accountability expert Sam Walker, police unions across the country have continued to oppose basic reforms.
For decades, the city has focused on limiting the financial costs of contracts and unions have responded by winning increasing protections for officers accused of misconduct, the Chicago Tribune reported last year.
In the last round of contract negotiations, the Emanuel administration initially focused on winning union support for pension reform. After sergeants rejected a contract that would have increased their pension contributions, negotiations dragged on, slowed in part by a leadership change at FOP Lodge 7. By mid-2014, Emanuel was reported to be “using the lure of [retroactive] pay to make pre-election peace with the last remaining city union still working under an expired contract.”
Attorney James Franczak, who represents the city in contract negotiations, told the Tribune he expects the city to seek changes in several provisions impacting accountability, including the ban on anonymous complaints and the 24-hour waiting period.
Dean Angelo Sr., president of FOP Lodge 7, has said the city will have to provide financial incentives if it wants the union to consider negotiating away protections for officers. (The Tribune has pointed out that taxpayers have already “ponied up” with a half billion dollars over the past decade for police misconduct lawsuits.)
But if past patterns hold, it’s likely that negotiations will go to arbitration — and in that case, language in the PATF and DOJ reports citing national standards will help inform an arbitrator’s decision.
Advocates have also pointed to the state’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which closely tracks several items in union contracts. But that law includes language giving local contracts priority: “(Section 6) The provisions of this act apply only to the extent there is no collective bargaining agreement currently in effect dealing with the subject matter of this act.”
No charges in LeGrier, Jones deaths
The Cook County State’s Attorney opted not to charge Officer Robert Rialmo in the fatal shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015, saying they could not prove Rialmo was not acting in self-defense.
Police responded after LeGrier and his father called 911 while 19-year-old LeGrier was apparently suffering a mental health crisis. Jones opened the door for police when they arrived.
The families of LeGrier and Jones blasted the decision. A Jones family attorney said eyewitness — and shell casings from Rialmo’s gun — placed him about 14 feet away from where LeGrier stood with a baseball bat at the time of the shooting.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the decision because she previously worked at the law firm representing Jones’ family.
Rialmo has sued the city, charging inadequate training left him unprepared to deal with a mental health crisis. He has also sued LeGrier’s estate, charging the young man’s actions caused him emotional distress.
Wrongful death lawsuits by the families of LeGrier and Jones are pending.
IPRA recommends firing in Darius Pinex killing
In a case which highlights numerous shortcomings in CPD’s accountability system, the Independent Police Review Authority recommended firing Officer Raoul Mosqueda, finding he lied repeatedly about the circumstances of a 2011 traffic stop during which Mosqueda and his partner shot and killed Darius Pinex.
IPRA found Mosqueda lied in a statement to investigators and in a deposition and on the stand in a lawsuit brought by Pinex’s family. IPRA also found the traffic stop was without legal justification, but found insufficient evidence to conclude the Mosqueda and his partner Gildardo Sierra used excessive force in the incident.
A senior city attorney resigned in January 2016 after a judge threw out the verdict in the Pinex lawsuit and found the attorney had deliberately withheld evidence that showed Mosqueda’s testimony to be false. The city later settled the lawsuit for nearly $2.4 million.
Last June, IPRA ruled that Sierra used excessive force in another 2011 shooting in which Flint Farmer was killed. The agency was unable to recommend disciplinary action because Sierra left the force the year before. In November, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declined to charge Sierra, saying he reasonably mistook Farmer’s cellphone for a gun — despite video showing Sierra unloading his gun into Farmer while standing over his body.
Mosqueda was stripped of his police powers following IPRA’s report — just days after he joined Mayor Emanuel and top city officials at a promotion ceremony at Navy Pier marking his appointment as a field training officer, the Tribune reported. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Mosqueda was one of two FTO trainees who have been involved in wrongful death lawsuits costing the city millions.
Kim Foxx denies torture review
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx appears to have misread an Appellate Court opinion when she decided not to have her Conviction Integrity Unit take another look at Jamie Hauad’s torture claims, the Sun-Times writes in an editorial.
After the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission concluded in 2014 that evidence supported Hauad’s claims, the CIU under then State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez “took a cursory look but decided not to intervene,” according to the Sun-Times.
Now a state appellate court seconded the commission’s conclusion, writing, “We encourage the state’s attorney and the [CIU] to heed the recommendation of the torture commission to further investigate the case.”
In response Foxx’s office issued a statement saying, “We are pleased that the appellate court carefully reviewed the record and rejected the defendant’s unsupported claims.”
That “appears to be a misreading of the appellate court’s opinion,” according to the Sun-Times. Hauad has served 18 years for a double murder which he says he did not commit.
Lawsuit by man wounded in police shooting
Antwon Golatte last week filed suit against the city, two police officers who shot Golatte in a 2015 traffic stop, and 100 unidentified officers Golatte says conspired under a code of silence — one day after Supt. Eddie Johnson asked the Police Board to fire the two department members named in the lawsuit.
Last July, IPRA ruled the shooting by Officer Jaime Gaete and Detective Harry Matheos was unjustified but did not recommend disciplinary action. At the time the incident capped a period of harassment by police.
After the shooting Golatte was jailed for 44 days and charged with aggravated battery to police officers and destruction of government property. He was acquitted of all charges in January.
Blacks still targeted in street stops
The number of street stops by Chicago police has plummeted, but African Americans continue to account for the vast majority — 71 percent — of those detained and frisked, the Sun-Times reported. In 59 percent of the cases, officers checked the box for “other” as the reason for the stop on departmental reporting form. (Narrative portions of the form which could include further details were not released.) Weapons were recovered in 2 percent of stops, and drugs or other “contraband” in 4 percent of stops.
The first report of a federal magistrate judge tasked with reviewing data on stops under the agreement with the ACLU is expected within weeks.
Bond reform proposed
State Rep. Christian Mitchell introduced legislation abolishing cash bonds in Illinois. The Equal Justice for All Act would prohibit the use of money bonds; release nonviolent offenders on their own recognizance and provide pre-trial support services to ensure court appearances are made; and preserve judicial discretion to order detention or electronic monitoring for people found to have a risk of harming others.
As reported here previously, County President Toni Preckwinkle, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Sheriff Tom Dart have joined a growing consensus backing elimination of cash bail to reduce pretrial detention levels.