Misconduct allegation dogs Chicago Police Department, but will it change it?

Our partners over at NBC 5 revisit a history of misconduct allegations against a high-ranking Chicago police officer who was charged with official misconduct on Thursday.

Chicago news organizations are all over a story about police Cmdr. Glenn Evans who was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct on Thursday.

Evans allegedly stuffed a gun deep into the throat of a suspect while holding a Taser to his groin last year. Similar allegations against the officer have been an open secret in Chicago for years, yet Evans continued to rise through the ranks of the police department.  He was promoted to head the South Side district just months after The Chicago Reporter first identified him as part of a small group of officers who were named in an unusual number of lawsuits settled by the city.

The charges announced Thursday bear a striking resemblance to the older allegations against Evans, who was released without having to post bond. A 24-year-old man alleged that Evans stripped then Tasered him in the groin and anus during an interview at a police station. An older city worker alleged that Evans attacked him for delivering a water shut-off notice to his house. Last year, another allegation was settled for $71,000, bringing Evans’ settlement tab to $190,000 since 2009. Neither the city nor Evans admitted wrongdoing in any of the cases.  The city has paid another $100 million in  settlements in police misconduct cases since last year, according to the city’s Law Department.

The  police department has been looking into a number of misconduct allegations involving Evans for years. He was one of a small fraction—less than 1 percent—of the city’s officers who had more than 10 complaints filed against him, according to police records from the 2000s that were recently released following a  lengthy legal challenge. Two of the allegations involved improper “use or display” of a weapon, records show. The department’s Internal Affairs Division didn’t substantiate any of the alleged abuses.

The Independent Police Review Authority, a quasi-independent monitor’s office, called on Cook County prosecutors to look into the gun-in-the-mouth complaint against Evans last year. Since 2010, the agency referred 238 other cases to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for possible criminal activity as well. Evans was involved in at least two of those cases. Prosecutors have pressed criminal charges in a handful of the cases.

IPRA’s response was exactly what a group of professors from the University of Illinois at Chicago called for in a report last year that criticized the city’s attempted crackdown on police abuse. Criminal prosecution is just one tool for rooting out police abuse, says political science professor Dick Simpson, a former alderman who co-wrote the report. The superintendent has power to discipline or recommend firing officers. The problem, Simpson says, is that very few complaints are ever pursued.

The Chicago Police Board, a mayoral-appointed group has to sign off on firing or disciplining officers. Last year, the superintendent took six cases to the board where he recommended suspending an officer for 30 days or longer, an agency report shows.

Even after the criminal charges against Evans were announced, Chicago’s police Chief Garry McCarthy stuck by the commander, who has been assigned to desk duty. “If I didn’t support him,” McCarthy told the Tribune earlier this week, “he wouldn’t be there.”

Simpson says until there’s “political will and bureaucratic change within the police department itself” the culture of the police department is unlikely to change.

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