Throughout the Chicago Police Department Tuesday, in squad rooms, squad cars, and over cups of coffee, patrolmen and commanders alike talked about the latest charges to rock the department: revelations that two officers from a unit with a sordid reputation had been accused of robbing and shaking down drug dealers on the South Side.
Sources close to the investigation said that the allegations about the unit date back more than 10 years, and that while two officers, Kallat Mohamed and Ronald Watts have now been charged, other officers are under investigation.
Mohammed and Watts were arrested over the weekend after they were allegedly videotaped taking money from an undercover informant who they believed was a courier carrying drug funds. The sources said the two are suspected of being part of an operation which has been under suspicion of involvement with drug operations in the neighborhood, dating back to now-demolished public housing projects, where drugs were dealt with impunity for years.
Most shocking are reports that investigators have long had suspicions about two unsolved homicides. In both cases, the victims were drug dealers from the neighborhood who informants said had balked at paying protection money to police. The sources said that while those troubling allegations have rumbled through investigative circles for years, there has never been concrete evidence tying the homicides to police corruption.
"That was a joint Chicago Police Department and FBI endeavor," said Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who brushed off questions of a larger probe. "At this point, there’s nobody involved except the two officers who were arrested."
Throughout the day Tuesday, police blogs lit up with recollections and allegations about the units which once patrolled the projects in the south side neighborhood.
"Watts and his team from housing, which included Mohammed, were dirty over 10 years ago,” wrote one poster on the Second City Cop blog, which is frequented by officers from the Chicago Police Department. "I’m surprised it took this long for them to get taken down. And I’m really surprised that more of his team didn’t get caught up in this indictment."
"No secret in housing that Watts’ team was dirty," wrote another post. Still another declared, "It’s just a shame the department did nothing in the past when all of [Watts’] beefs were coming in for the past three or four years of stealing money and running with the gang bangers."
For his part, McCarthy declared that action was being taken.
"The fact is, when officers commit these horrible acts, we’re going to do everything we can to identify and arrest them," he said. "It’s really that simple."