by Antonio Romanucci
Last week, my firm, Romanucci & Blandin, secured the largest verdict ever in a police misconduct lawsuit in Illinois against the city of Chicago — $44.7 million.
In an op-ed reacting to the verdict, William Choslovsky pointed to this outcome as a product of “the Chicago way.” He misplaces blame on my client, and ignores the central issue of this case: The city had no adequate early warning system in place to flag officers who had violent tendencies and failed to investigate these officers. These failures allowed Officer Patrick Kelly to avoid discipline for years leading up to the night in January 2010, when he shot and paralyzed Michael LaPorta.
Kelly had amassed at least 17 complaints before he shot LaPorta, landing him in the top 2 percent to 5 percent of Chicago Police Department offenders, and the jury in this case considered mounds of evidence that Kelly was consistently violent during his career as a cop and was never disciplined or lost a day of compensation—at taxpayer expense.
This practice of turning a blind eye to police misconduct is nothing new; it goes back decades. Consider the victims of Jon Burge, and the deaths of David Koschman and Laquan McDonald. There’s a historical pattern of police and city authorities covering up officer misconduct until an outside agent shines a light on these controversies—media, citizens, activists and, yes, attorneys.
If the city would finally acknowledge that this cover-up practice exists and identify appropriate policy reforms, imagine the taxpayer resources that would be saved in the long run. Instead, the city continues to fight the truth, with its latest argument being that it is not responsible for off-duty officers, an argument which its attorneys noticeably didn’t make in court.
It is time for the city to admit its failings: it didn’t act properly the first time, or the 17th in Kelly’s instance, when allegations of misconduct were repeatedly brought forth.
If the taxpayers of Chicago want to be angry about paying for something, it should be the millions of dollars in legal fees that the city has paid out to private law firms to repeatedly defend rogue officers like Kelly and the interest they will be paying to handle the appeal we have now been threatened with. The public is again being lied to by the city. Blame has been placed unfairly on the victim, and not the perpetrators of this tragic act.
Antonio Romanucci is principal and partner with Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, Chicago, Illinois. This letter to the editor was originally published on November 2, 2017 by the Chicago Tribune and is reprinted with permission of the author.
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