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Chicago Superintendent of Police Weis Letter to Holderman Re Civil Litigation 2009

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Richard M. Daley

Department of PoUce • City of Chicago
35 lOS. Michigan Avenue' Chicago, Illinois 60653

Jody P. Wcis
Superintendent of Police

July 23,2009
Honorable James F. Holderman
United States District Court
For the Northern District of Illinois
219 South Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60604

Dear Chief Judge Holderman:
As the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, I have many
responsibilities to the public, the justice system, and, to the officers that I serve.
In the time I have been Superintendent, I have seen the incredible work by
officers that occurs daily in this City to stem increasingly violent criminal activity.
Everyday, Chicago Police Department officers go out to serve and protect the
residents of this city. They do so with great cost.
Since being named
Superintendent, I have buried four officers killed in the line of duty, I have gone to
the hospital numerous times for officers severely injured in the line of duty and I
have seen the trauma associated with police involved shootings. Everyday I see
the impact that violent crime has on the residents of this city.
One of the recurring challenges facing our officers is the prevalence of civil
litigation. Lawsuits filed against police officers are on the rise. As you know,
unlike in criminal court, the filing of a complaint in civil court does not require any
proof beyond very minimal requirements. The negative impact that the filing of
suits has on officers cannot be overstated. As the result of being named in a
lawsuit, the Chicago Police Department opens an investigation into the action of
an officer, regardless of the actions alleged in the complaint. Dual processes
continue, with the civil action and the internal administrative action going forward,
until resolution in both arenas.
Traditionally, because of the constraints of the civil justice system practice, many
lesser cases have been settled by the City, if only for business reasons. It is my
opinion that many of these cases are filed without merit. Further, many officers
have approached me and continue to raise concerns that their reputation is being
tarnished, they are not allowed to clear their names, and, that criminal
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E-mail: • Website: www.cityofchjcago.orglpolice

Re: Civil Litigation

July 23, 2009

Page 2 of 2
defendants are using civil litigation to either assist their criminal defense or to
intimidate the officers from conducting lawful enforcement activity.
The Chicago Police Department continues to see the media, plaintiffs and
the judiciary focus on the number of lawsuits filed and settled against officers and
on the number of complaints made against officers. The assumption is that the
mere filing, or number of suits, makes an officer corrupt. Officers have been
named and reported in the media and litigation because there are a number of
settlements for lawsuits in which they have been defendant parties, The
insinuation is that they are bad officers. However, as you know, many suits settle
for other reasons - none of which are included in the broad··brush of outing an
officer named in a complaint. This is a cycle in which the outcome is patently
unfair to the officers that I rely upon to keep this city safe.
Therefore, I have asked the Department of Law to litigate those cases
which in the past would have been settled a matter of financial concern.
Everyday I ask officers to go out and put their life on the line in service to
the City of Chicago. The least I can offer in return is the support for their ability to
litigate the lawfulness of their actions and to clear their name for allegations of
misconduct in the civil and administrative arenas. While I recognize this may
bring increased litigation, I anticipate that it will also serve as a valid gatekeeper
action. If plaintiffs know their complaint will in fact be litigated, more focus and
concern will be given to the factual validity of the complaints signed. Hopefully
this will benefit all concerned. I look forward to your support in this matter and
would like to discuss it further should you desire to do so. I thank you for your
attention to this matter.

Jody P. Weis
Superintendent of Police
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