CHICAGO — A man who investigates the Chicago Police Department for a living was beaten by officers once they discovered what he did, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
George Roberts is a supervisor at the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency responsible for investigating claims of police misconduct and officer-involved shootings. On New Year’s Day 2015, Roberts was pulled over after he left a bar. One of six officers who stopped Roberts found his IPRA identification badge.
Immediately afterwards, the police dash cam recording the traffic stop cuts to black; Roberts alleges in his federal lawsuit against the police this is because another officer intentionally turned off the camera. Roberts’s attorney claims police paperwork did not even note any footage existed. In fact, police only admitted to its existence when Roberts’s criminal counsel discovered it during his trial for driving under the influence.
With no footage to contest their account of the incident, police told the media that Roberts was drunk and swerving his vehicle and that he refused to answer questions or to take a field-sobriety test. They arrested him for minor traffic violations and DUI. Police said he fell asleep in the back of the squad car and he soiled himself.
Roberts was acquitted on the DUI charge in a bench trial and he says police are lying about what really happened after the dash cam went dark—that he was thrown to the ground before he was handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car.
Roberts’s wrists were too large for the single pair of handcuffs police slapped on him, his lawyer says. When Roberts, at 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, complained that even the slightest movement caused the cuffs to cut into his wrists, Officer “R. Adams” allegedly taunted him with Eric Garner’s last words.
“What are you going to tell me next, you can’t breathe?”
Roberts, who is black, claims he was pulled out of the car and thrown to the ground again—a collision so violent that it made him lose control of his bowels. From there Roberts was taken to the lock-up, where he stayed overnight in his soiled clothes.
The only visit from an officer that night was borne not of concern but jubilation, according to Roberts. A white-shirt officer, which denotes high rank, peered in on Roberts as he sat defeated on the cell floor, then pointed and laughed.
IPRA is used to getting beat up by Chicago’s cops.
Lorenzo Davis, who along with Roberts was one of just two black supervisors at IPRA, is also suing the city. Davis says he was fired after refusing to whitewash investigations of three fatal shootings carried out by Chicago police officers. While Davis remains unsure whether police targeted Roberts, he is sure that telling the truth about cops gets punished.
“Some people seem to think that someone saw him and recognized him, saw him in a bar and saw him drinking,” Davis says of Roberts. “That was a theory initially—that this would be a way to get back at someone who worked at IPRA.”
The only time IPRA had the balls to suggest terminating a cop was after the state’s attorney already charged him in a homicide, which hadn’t happened to any other cops in IPRA’s lifetime.
In 2012, Detective Dante Servin fired his unregistered handgun from his car, killing Rekia Boyd. (Servin has maintained he saw a man with a gun near Boyd, but investigators revealed the man was holding only a cellphone.) Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter but was acquitted by a Cook County judge in April on the novel basis that Servin should’ve been charged with first-degree murder.
Not only will Servin not do time in prison, he may not even lose his job. That decision rests with the Chicago Police Board, made up of nine private citizens appointed by the mayor. Protesters faced off with the board last week to demand Servin be canned. At an earlier meeting, Boyd’s brother even brought a bag of his sister’s bloody hair to make his point. Last week, he was joined by more than 200 protesters outside Chicago police headquarters.
“What they’re trying to do now is to—IPRA as well as the state’s attorney’s office—is to find one or two high-profile cases to come out against, and get all the press they can and get the heat off them,” Davis said. “It’s so political they might go ahead and fire him.”
That’s it: politics, not facts. Even when cops are caught on tape threatening and manhandling people—and then trying to steal the evidence—IPRA slaps them on the wrists. Just this week, video surfaced of two plainclothes officers roughing up an Chinese-American woman in a salon that was the target of a raid.
“You’re not fucking American. I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the fuck you came from,” Officer Gerald Di Pasquale tells Jessica Klyzek, which was captured on surveillance video. Klyzek told him that she’s a citizen.
“No you’re not! You’re here on borrowed time,” Pasquale tells Klyzek. “So mind your fucking business before I shut this whole fucking place down. And I’ll take this place and whoever owns it will fucking kill you because they don’t care about you, OK? I’ll take this building. You’ll be dead and your whole family will be dead.”
After realizing they were being recorded, the officers talk about how they could obtain the footage, not realizing it was stored off site.
For implying an innocent woman would die, allowing another officer to punch her in the face, then talking about hiding the evidence, IPRA recommended a 25-day suspension for Di Pasquale and an eight-day suspension for the officer who punched Klyzek.
Klyzek, Roberts, and Davis have all demanded that juries hear their cases, which would put Chicago, its police, and its police watchdogs all on trial.