Six new lawsuits were filed in federal court this week against the City of Chicago, alleging civil rights violations by officers under the command of disgraced police Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Watts and officers under his command are accused of framing and shaking down residents of the former Ida B. Wells public housing project. At least 50 individuals have seen their cases overturned, after making credible claims that they had been framed. And many more cases are in the pipeline.
“The City of Chicago knew there was wrongdoing going on here,” says attorney Joel Flaxman, who filed the six suits against the city, on behalf of a half dozen individuals who had their cases thrown out. “The plaintiffs intend to prove that the city, through its official action, failed to stop these officers.”
Only Watts and one of the officers under his command, Kallatt Mohammed, faced charges. But more than a dozen others have been removed from street duty, and most have been labeled un-credible for testimony in criminal cases by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. In virtually every case, the allegations against Watts officers were strikingly similar.
“(They) extorted bribes, stole money, stole drugs, ran their own drug units, did protection for drug dealers,” Flaxman says. “And framed dozens and dozens of people for crimes they didn’t commit.”
The City already faces dozens of lawsuits stemming from the episode, which has the potential to be the largest scandal in departmental history. Potential awards in the cases, would add to what was recently estimated by Crain’s Chicago Business, to be nearly a billion dollars in corruption-related awards and settlements since 2010.
“You know, the highest awards we’ve seen are over a million dollars per year of incarceration---some of the recent jury trial have been even more than that,” Flaxman says. “No matter what happens, the lawyers representing the city and the lawyers representing the city’s officers are continuously getting paid.”