Chicago Police

COPA Called for Officers to Be Stripped of Their Powers. So What Happened?

The ongoing investigation into allegations of frame-ups and abuse at a CHA Housing project is moving with glacial progress

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Two years after Chicago's police investigating agency called for three Chicago police officers to be relieved of their police powers, all three remain on the force, according to the city's payroll database.

In a series of memos in January 2019, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended that officers Calvin Ridgell Jr. and Gerome Summers Jr., along with Sgt. Alvin Jones, be stripped of their police powers during an "ongoing investigation relative to allegations of false arrest and false reports and testimony."

The three had been part of a team linked to corrupt Sgt. Ronald Watts, who went to prison after revelations of a wide-ranging scandal involving shakedowns and frameups of drug dealers and residents at the former Ida B. Wells housing project.

Indeed, in 2017, all three were named along with six others in a letter from the Cook County State's Attorney's office to CPD's office of legal affairs. In that letter, Joe Magats, then the Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, said that none of the nine officers would be called again as witnesses "due to concerns about the credibility and alleged involvement in the misconduct of Sergeant Watts."

But all three remained on the force. A check of the city's online payroll database shows all are still identified as Chicago police officers.

"We don't have any record of what CPD did in response to this," said criminal defense attorney Joel Flaxman, who included the memos from COPA in a new motion he and attorney Joshua Tepfer filed in court Oct. 22. "We do know that COPA made this formal recommendation in part of this investigation earlier this year, and we're still waiting to hear where that's going."

Flaxman and Tepfer represent scores of individuals who have seen their cases overturned after the revelations of alleged wrongdoing on the part of Watts and his team, and dozens more who have filed petitions seeking similar relief.

Along with Watts himself, only one more of the team's officers, Kallatt Mohammed, has been charged in the scandal. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. But even undercover officers assigned to the investigation argued that the corruption went far beyond Watts and Mohammed.

"I think these cases show a real shocking pattern of these officers regularly making false arrests, regularly making false police reports and regularly testifying to those false police reports about drug arrests and drug transactions that they never saw and that never happened," Flaxman said.

Earlier this year, COPA made a recommendation to CPD that Jones be stripped of his police powers. Asked why he was still on the force, a source said the matter had been referred to the law department. A spokesman there referred NBC 5 back to COPA.

"The takeaway is that we have this investigation that is moving much too slowly," Flaxman said. "And it's time for some action for the people who were wronged throughout this scandal."

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