It has been years since veteran officer and whistleblower Shannon Spalding filed suit against the city over the Chicago Police Department’s alleged “code of silence.”
But even after the case was settled earlier this year for $2 million, Spalding said she’s still facing backlash.
Spalding, a police officer who investigated police corruption with the FBI for six years , said she faced retaliation after attempting to expose corruption in the Ida B. Wells housing project on Chicago’s South Side. She and another officer say they were first outed, then punished for attempting to expose dirty narcotics officers.
The investigation was compromised before its completion, with only two officers charged, Ronald Watts and Khalet Mohammed.
The two officers said word of their involvement in the probe was leaked by a commander, and they were soon branded as internal affairs “rats”. One commander was quoted as saying, “God help them if they ever need help on the street…it’s not going to come.”
The city settled the suit for $2 million, but Spalding said she has yet to be able to move on.
She has been a police officer for 20 years, but now each time she passes the Chicago Police Department, she can’t help but react.
“I would shake, I would physically get sick,” she said. “Just going by the police department makes me nervous because the last time I was in there, I was falsely arrested.”
She says her fellow officers would even spit at her feet as she walked by.
Doctors ultimately diagnosed Spalding with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I didn’t realize the longstanding effect it would have, and how traumatic it would be,” she said.
She filed for “in line of duty disability” from the Chicago Police Pension Board but that request was denied. In its ruling, the board said in part Spalding’s PTSD was “not the result of her police work” but was “attributed to her subsequent interaction with her fellow co-workers.”
It goes on to say Spalding didn’t prove her PTSD was “the result of a specific identifiable act of duty unique to police work.”
Spalding disputes the rules and has filed an appeal, but she’s not surprised by the decision.
“I expected it,” she said. “I expected it would be just a continuation of the retaliation.”
Spalding said she still has not received the money from her settlement, which is awaiting a vote by the City Council.
“It’s difficult,” she said. “You rely on family, you use all of your savings. I lost my home.”
A trustee from the Chicago Police Pension Fund said Tuesday for any officer to consider board trustees would “ever consider retaliation to anyone seeking a benefit claim is outrageous and shameful on an officer’s character.”
Beyond her struggles, however, Spalding worries about the message her case sends to others in the department.
“The code of silence is very much alive and well in the Chicago Police Department and if you dare break that code of silence, you will be the next Shannon Spalding.”