Will City Fire Hero Cops?
A move to separate two of the city’s best officers on baseless allegations that they lied about an arrest could have drastic fallout for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s relationship with Chicago Police Officers.
The possible move by the mayor’s Corporation Counsel to fire Officers John Wrigley and Jack O’Keefe for a 2013 arrest that netted a submachine gun, a pistol and a cache of dope from a career gang member comes in the wake of other decisions that have framed officers for doing legitimate police work.
In their trial testimony, Wrigley and O’Keefe may have confused the location of two items only a few feet apart at the crime scene. That’s it. That is apparently enough to now get an officer fired from the CPD.
For the FOP, the firing of these two officers would be crossing a line.
Indeed, the Fraternal Order of Police Board voted several months ago to make a complaint against a sergeant from the Internal Affairs Department who recommended that the officers be fired, claiming his report was itself full of false allegations clearly contradicted by trial testimony. The FOP filed the complaint with the Inspector General.
Officers Wrigley and O’Keefe were doing exactly the kind of police work the city needs, especially in light of an explosion in violent crime and shootings over the last few weeks. Their possible firing, along with the decision by COPA that the 2015 fatal shooting by Officer Robert Rialmo against a bat- wielding youth was unjustified, has left Chicago Police Officers in the lurch, not knowing what force they can use and whether they will be arbitrarily disciplined by -Emanuel-created agencies like COPA or Emanuel’s Corporation Counsel.
What makes the strategy by the city particularly troubling is that it is not the first time Officer Wrigley has been betrayed in the line of duty. John Wrigley is the recipient of the Medal of Valor, earned when he was wounded in a shootout on the west side in 2005. After two trials spanning nine years, the offender in that case was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison. But in the waning moments of Governor Pat Quinn’s scandal-plagued administration, Quinn commuted the sentence of the offender.
First Wrigley is wounded in a shootout, then he watches the shooter walk straight out of prison. Now, Emanuel’s Corporation Counsel, headed by Ed Siskel, may fire Wrigley and his partner because they may have made a mistake in their testimony about the location of an item at the crime scene, a mistake that had no bearing on the legitimacy of the arrest.
Indeed, the offender who was arrested never even filed a complaint against the officers.
What message is Emanuel now sending to Chicago Police Officers? Is the Emanuel administration and the Corporation Counsel now telling officers that any error in testimony will now result in the officers being fired? This, after Emanuel’s police board undermined the Use of Force guidelines in the Rialmo case?
And whatever fallout there may be from this message will likely be suffered most significantly by the people of Chicago, whose police force strives, with ever increasing odds stacked against them, to protect and serve.