by Lesley R. Chinn
While he didn’t get jail time, Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weiss still found himself on the other side of the law when he appeared before Judge Robert Gettleman. On Monday, Gettleman reprimanded the city’s top cop for defying a court order to turn over a list which included names of police officers who are in the spotlight for alleged acts of police brutality.
Gettleman scolded Weiss and told him that defying a court order is “absolutely intolerable” and “refusing to comply is the wrong message to send, especially from you,” the judge stated. “It’s the wrong message to send to the people.” He added that even if “Weiss was considered Robin Hood, he was still a criminal.”
Weiss, who was previously found in contempt of court, reluctantly turned over the names last Friday that contained a list of 2,000 cops. He said he hesitated because turning over the names would compromise the officers’ performance, threaten safety and lower morale. The names of the officers on the list are not being released to the public and are still under a protective order. When asked what the city’s position is on this case, City Atty. Mara Georges said that Supt. Weiss has already stated his position and has complied with the court order.
“It was never my intention to offend the court in any way. I have the utmost respect for the court. I made the decision to withhold the names early on because I was gravely concerned about how this release would affect the men and women of the Chicago Police Department. I did not make that decision lightly,” said Weiss who added he’s confident the names will remain under protective order. “You have officers out there making split-second decisions every day,” Weiss continued. “They cannot be worried about having their names being on any type of list. When you look behind some of the initial complaints, the complaints were either unfounded or exonerated.”
Judge Gettleman demanded the release of the names as part of a police brutality lawsuit filed by resident Donna Moore. In May 2007, Moore claimed an officer physically attacked her children and falsely arrested them during a playground incident. The children were 11 and 13 years old at the time.
“I don’t necessarily look at the list as a step in a positive direction because of what this city, courts, and people of Chicago had to go through in order to have relief. As a citizen of Chicago, I have an expectation and the rest of us have an expectation that [Jody Weiss’] paramount responsibility is the protection and safety of millions of people in Chicago and not the 1,000 or so of those so-called repeaters who are on the list.
“He went a long way to lower the morale of the police department. These lists have been released dozens of times to attorneys, but [Weiss] chose to make a public stand not to enforce the law,” Moore said.
The judge ordered the city to pay attorney’s fees for Moore’s lawyers. The costs are estimated at $50,000 but could be doubled by another judge. Moore’s attorney, G. Flint Taylor, wanted a stiffer penalty but was denied. He said he was satisfied that the judge stepped forward to condemn Weiss’ conduct.
“It is a unique situation in the history of Chicago and the police department when the chief law enforcement officer flaunts court orders and has to be dragged in front of a federal judge.
“We will use these lists to show that the city of Chicago does not properly discipline its repeat police officers. We will certainly seek his deposition to question him on all the issues that are left open by
his conduct in this case,” Taylor said. Taylor called on the city to use the list for improved police oversight.
“There was never a real reason an officer such as a Jon Burge or a Jerome Finnegan, should be known by the community…they are going to continue to beat people on the street or torture people in the police stations. Do we have a police superintendent who wants to deal with police brutality or does he want to cover it up,” Taylor asked?
Weiss said that he has put an emphasis on keeping everything as transparent as possible. “I said from day one that there is zero tolerance for officers who brutalize our citizens, engage in corrupt activity or do anything to impugn their integrity.”
While standing next to Taylor and Moore, 28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith said he was surprised at Weiss’ actions. “It says to me that you really don’t respect a criminal judge. When you portray that kind of attitude in the community, it’s the kind of attitude that shows that you don’t care. That’s the kind of attitude that you don’t want in the community,” he said.