Report details police corruption in Chicago

Dick Simpson

Police corruption continues in Chicago, says a report co-authored by political science professor Dick Simpson. Photo: Jenny Fontaine/UIC Public Affairs

Police corruption in Chicago survives due to a lack of oversight and indifference from internal and external leadership, according to a new report published by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The report, “Crime, Corruption and Cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department,” examines the convictions of CPD officers since 1960.

Over the past five decades, no fewer than 300 officers have been convicted of crimes such as drug dealing, beatings of civilians, destroying evidence, protecting mobsters, theft, and murder. More than 90 of the convictions have taken place since 2000.

“The problem of police corruption in Chicago is not simply that there are occasional flawed police officers. By far, most officers are law-abiding, dedicated public servants,” says report co-author John Hagedorn, UIC professor of criminology, law and justice.

“The real problem is that an embarrassingly large number of police officers violate citizens’ rights, engage in corruption, and commit crimes while escaping detection and avoiding discipline or prosecution for many years.”

According to the report, police corruption is enabled by a “blue code of silence” entrenched in department culture where officers avoid reporting crimes and misconduct by their colleagues.

Hagedorn says the war on drugs makes oversight of policing, for patrol officers and drug and vice officers alike, more difficult.

The report finds that standard drug-law enforcement operations can blur the line between corrupt and upstanding, thus reinforcing a need for tighter supervision and training of sergeants and front line supervisors.

To combat police corruption, the researchers propose a combination of external review initiatives and internal incentives. One key recommendation is to replace the appointed Police Board with a democratically elected board of civilians, or an entire new appointed board.

“These proposed reforms are designed to create effective oversight structures and a culture of honest service within the Chicago Police Department,” said report co-author Dick Simpson, UIC professor of political science.

“Police corruption not only undermines public trust in law enforcement,” Simpson said, but also costs taxpayers millions of dollars in corruption-related prosecutions, lawsuits, defense and settlements.

The report, which is online at http://www.uic.edu/depts/pols/ChicagoPolitics/policecorruption.pdf, features detailed recommendations, historical data and information on Chicago Police Department corruption and oversight, categorization of police conviction statistics, and 10 case studies illustrating the different types of corruption.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,500 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, please visit www.uic.edu.