News 11.02.15

Chicago Tribune: A Telling Expose of Waukegan Police Department

An investigation by the

Chicago Tribune

into the Waukegan Police Department reveals that the Illinois law enforcement agency has “a troubling history of investigative failure and abuse allegations,” writes the

Tribune

. According to an article released on Friday, the Waukegan Police Department has had more wrongful convictions cases than any other law enforcement office in all of Illinois—with the exception of Chicago—including the cases of two Innocence Project clients, Bennie Starks and Angel Gonzalez.

The

Tribune

reports that at the heart of the department’s unsettling reputation is officer misconduct. From excessive force to outright physical brutality to wrongful arrests, abuses by Waukegan police have resulted in the city and its insurers paying or committing to pay large settlements, totaling nearly $26.1 million to 50 people, most of them black and Latino, highlighting the disproportionate number of people of color being affected.  And the trouble doesn’t end there. An additional $13 million has been paid out as a result of the misconduct of Waukegan officers who worked as part of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, and additional law suits against Waukegan are pending.

It’s questionable as to whether officers have been disciplined for the damage they have caused. In three specific brutality cases—one which resulted in a man’s death—“open records requests turned up no record of discipline,” of the officers said to be responsible, writes the

Tribune

. But, to the contrary, in five out of the six investigations that resulted in wrongful convictions, the officers on the case were actually promoted to chief or deputy chief.

A number of officers in the department tried to make changes from within by filing complaints about the corruption they witnessed at the hands of their colleagues, but with little to no success. Their grievances were opposed by superiors who claimed that the whistleblowers were lying and should be fired. City officials have also come to the defense of the department and its detectives, even as it continues to pay large settlements and face law suits, reports the

Tribune

.

The

Tribune

interviewed Jonathan Smith, who once led a team within the Justice Department that investigates local police departments. He said that Waukegan’s “heavy legal losses suggest a problem that calls for greater examination.”

“That is more than a bellwether. It really does suggest that there is something going on that needs a deeper look,” Smith said to the

Tribune

.

Read the entire story

here

Learn more about Bennie Starks

here

.

Learn more about Angel Gonzalez

here

 

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  1. Lonnie Lewis says:

    Thank you to the reporters for their due diligence in bringing to light the hidden facts that demanded corrective action on all levels of the City of Waukegan’s Administration.

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