Chicago PD’s Bizarro World: Cop with 90 Complaints = Promotion
February 27, 2017 (Fault Lines) – When it comes to law enforcement scandals, America’s Second City always manages to outdo itself. Chicago’s (wo)men in blue are constantly in the headlines facing allegations of misconduct, perjury, and just plain-ol’ ass kicking when it comes to (mentally ill) suspects.
Whenever there was video footage that wasn’t destroyed by the officers, it made the Windy City coppers look real bad. The city either tries to hide and suppress video from public view — as it did for 13 months when it came to Laquan McDonald’s execution — or it does a Machiavellian video dump in the hopes of drowning out the bad stuff.
And now, a Chicago officer who has been the subject of 90 formal complaints has been demoted to desk duty promoted to Commander. That’s 23 fewer complaints than Chicago Officer Glenn Evans had when he was promoted to Superintendent, and his firing hasn’t been recommended by the Chicago Independent Police Review Authority for lying about a shooting that left a civilian dead, but it still raises eyebrows. WJCT reports on Commander James Sanchez’s big promotion:
Sanchez, who was promoted by Johnson to commander last August, has nearly twice as many complaints as any of the department’s other 21 district commanders — and about five times their average.
Sanchez was also the lead detective in a murder case that led to a $750,000 city settlement with a man acquitted after spending three years in jail on charges of committing the crime.
And Sanchez had ties to Jerome Finnigan, a Chicago cop sent to federal prison for corruption and a murder-for-hire plot.
This is how negative reinforcement is done in a proverbial bizarro world: rack up quite the (no pun) rap sheet when it comes to serious misconduct, break records for number of formal complaints while doing so, and you get a promotion, along with the increase in pay and benefits that come along with it. That’s the bizarro version of “That will show him!”
It’s not only minor peccadilloes that appear in the complaints against Sanchez. While serving as a detective, he led the murder investigation against Jose Lopez. And it may well turn out that Sanchez helped frame him, which led to Lopez spending 3 years in a prison cage, and a $750K settlement for Lopez that hurt Sanchez’s pocketbook came from the city’s coffers.
Like most instances involving framing the innocent, and the subsequent attempted cover-up, it was the best intentions that got the best of Sanchez when it came to Lopez’s case:
Sanchez, a detective at the time, led the investigation and talked to witnesses who implicated José López, a 23-year-old with a criminal history.
López was also a known gang member, according to attorney Elizabeth Mazur, who represented him later.
“Probably, as the police see it, these guys are all just a bunch of gang bangers, causing trouble out on the street,” Mazur said. “And if José didn’t do this one thing, maybe he did something else that the police think he ought to be in jail for. So, if they can implicate José López, that’s good enough.”
But the police story did not hold up in court. One of the witnesses fit the shooter’s physical description and actually led Sanchez to the murder weapon, according to court records, but the detectives did not consider that man a suspect.
López’s attorneys alleged that the detectives coerced two other key witnesses.
A Cook County jury acquitted López in 2005. By then, he had spent three years in the county jail on the charges.
Commit crimes and still get a lollipop and a balloon? It does sound familiar. Kind of like when the feds allow their confidential informants to commit thousands of crimes on their watch, so long as they help the government catch the real bad hombres. Most people don’t find out about these dirty little law enforcement secrets, at least not until a real-life case becomes the plot for a major motion picture.
Forget the old saying of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” This is a raging bonfire in plain view, for all — including Sanchez’s superiors — to see. Promotions like Sanchez’s go against all the talk about the police (re)gaining communities’ trust, in a city where the relationship between cops and civilians is already in dire straits.
Promoting Sanchez not only puts him in a position where his misconduct rap sheet can reach the triple digits, but it may create cover for his subordinates to do the same. Good intentions or not, Sanchez thought it was kosher for him to commit misconduct while performing his duties. He did it over and over again (90 times in total since joining the force in 1985.)
Not only will other up and coming officers think it’s okay to conduct themselves this way, but they will have a trusted ally at the helm, ready to give them a helping cover-up hand should the stuff ever hit the fan. It’s a surefire way to make a bad situation worse and put people’s lives and liberty in danger, even when it comes to Chicago’s PD.