Could Rahm Emanuel be headed to the witness stand?
Attorneys representing two police officers who said they faced retaliation for trying to reveal corruption, say they will call the mayor to testify about a so-called “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department.
The mayor’s office said it will oppose any such effort, but lawyers for the two officers say he is key to their case, because he has publicly acknowledged that officers sometimes cover for each other.
“We now have an admission from the highest, within the City of Chicago, that the code of silence exists,” says attorney Christopher Smith.
Smith represents the two officers, Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria, who say they faced repeated retaliation, after working undercover to investigate officers accused of shaking down drug dealers on the South Side. Echeverria and Spalding say the case was compromised, and that while charges were brought against two officers, others were involved.
In a federal lawsuit, the two officers say they were effectively blackballed within the department, with one police official even advising officers not to provide backup if the two ever reported they were in trouble. But during a deposition given for the case, a high ranking commander denied that any code of silence within the department exists.
“Department policy is completely against it,” Captain Michael Pigott said in a sworn deposition. “If an officer observes misconduct, he’s bound to report it to his supervisor.”
Then came the Laquan McDonald video. And Mayor Emanuel’s rather public declaration, that officers seemed to have been looking the other way.
“I am looking for a new leader for the Chicago Police Department, to address the problem at the very heart of the policing profession,” Emanuel told the City Council last Wednesday. “The problem is sometimes referred to as the thin blue line. The problem is other times referred to as the code of silence, and its tendency to ignore it. It is a tendency to deny it. It is a tendency in some cases to cover up the bad actions of colleagues.”
“There have been numerous, numerous convictions of officers, but nobody takes the time to connect the dots, to see who should have known, who was supervising, who was there,” Smith says. “What did they say about what was going on?”
With Emanuel seemingly expressing a different view from the police captain who gave a deposition in October, attorneys for the two officers filed documents Tuesday, adding the mayor to their list of witnesses.
“Unless somebody else wants to step up, another high ranking member and explain that this code exists, the Mayor is the one who is going to have to state it,” Smith said.
Late Tuesday, the Mayor’s office made clear in a statement they will fight any effort to put Emanuel on the witness stand.
“Under well settled law, depositions of chief executives and other high ranking officials are only permitted where individuals have personal knowledge that cannot be obtained from other sources,” the statement said. “This is particularly true with respect to high-ranking public officials like the Mayor of Chicago. This high threshold is not satisfied in this case, and we intend to oppose this and any similar requests for the Mayor’s deposition.”
At a City Council hearing Tuesday, the head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police scoffed at suggestions that officers protect each other under an unwritten code.
“To think an officers risks his livelihood or his family is ridiculous,” said FOP President Dean Angelo. “We don’t do that. It’s not 1950.”