The Patterns And Practice Of FOP President Dean Angelo

Amidst great fanfare last week, a “pattern and practice” report about Chicago Police officers was released by the Department of Justice, denouncing Chicago police officers. 

From the New York Times:

A blistering report by the Justice Department described far-reaching failures throughout the Chicago Police Department, saying excessive force was rampant, rarely challenged and chiefly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos.

The report, unveiled on Friday after a 13-month investigation, forced a public reckoning for a police department with a legacy of corruption and abuse. It came as the department grapples with skyrocketing violence in Chicago, where murders are at a 20-year high, and a deep lack of trust among the city’s residents.

The DOJ report, however, is more problematic for the current president of Chicago police union, Dean Angelo, than most people imagine. The reason is that Angelo has been confronted with another pattern of evidence long before the DOJ rolled up their sleeves and took a look at the city’s criminal justice system. And the first pattern of evidence, the one that Angelo was faced with from his first days in office, stands in stark contrast to the DOJ’s claims.

In this first pattern, claims of misconduct were taking shape against the industry of attorneys, academics, and activists making vast profits by vilifying police officers in the city, an industry commonly referred to as the “wrongful conviction movement.”

Perhaps the most ominous claim was articulated in a letter to former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez by attorneys representing a man named Alstory Simon.

Simon claimed he was coerced into confessing to a double murder as part of a plot by Northwestern University investigators to exonerate another man, Anthony Porter, already convicted of the murders. Simon’s confession and conviction in 1999 paved the way for Porter’s release from death row. Porter’s exoneration was probably the most influential wrongful conviction case in the state’s history and was greeted with an intense media frenzy, not unlike the one surrounding the DOJ’s report released last week.

Here is what Simon’s attorneys wrote to Alvarez in their letter:

…Alstory Simon could not know his allegations of coercion would later be corroborated through discovery of a systemic, well-documented pattern proving Northwestern’s use of identical coercive tactics in several other cases.

Wait a minute. A “well-documented pattern proving Northwestern’s use of identical coercive tactics in several other cases”? Coercive tactics? Pattern?

Isn’t that what the Chicago Police are accused of doing? This doesn’t really back up the conclusions of the DOJ report.

How far back to this pattern go, according to Simon’s attorneys?

They cite what they claim is evidence of misconduct by wrongful conviction investigators going all the way back to the infamous Ford Heights Four, a case claiming that four men were wrongly convicted of the 1978 rape and murders of a young, newly engaged couple in the south suburbs.

They cite what they claim is evidence of misconduct in the wrongful conviction crusade to free Madison Hobley, a man convicted of setting an arson in 1987 that killed seven people, including his own wife and child.

One of Simon’s attorneys is pursuing a defense theory that the release of a man for a 1982 heinous gang rape in which the victim was almost burned to death was also part of a pattern of generating false accusations of police misconduct.    

These are just a few examples of how vast the pattern is, according to Simon’s attorneys.

Well, perhaps Simon’s claims are just a bunch of hysteria. Perhaps they are just a bunch of hogwash.

It doesn’t look like it. Simon’s claims of being framed for the Porter murders have taken hold in the criminal justice system. He was released from prison in 2014 based on them. A judge subsequently stated that Simon was indeed innocent of the murders and that Northwestern’s conduct in the case was a “ruse” to free Porter.

For some unexplained reason, this pattern of evidence alleged by Simon’s attorneys did not make its way into the report by the Department of Justice. It also did not make its way into the local media coverage of the DOJ report.

The allegation of a pattern of evidence, however, did find its way into a massive federal lawsuit by Simon, and is gaining traction there. Soon attorneys for Simon will begin the process of collecting the evidence of this pattern they have alleged against Northwestern, one of the most powerful players in the wrongful conviction movement.

How ironic. One federal agency, the Department of Justice, is alleging one “pattern and practice” theory of police misconduct. A completely opposite pattern, one that stands in stark contrast to the DOJ report, is taking shape in the federal courts.

Which one is true? Which one is more accurate? Equally important, what was Angelo’s response to both of these alleged patterns?

Let’s take a look.

Confronted at general membership meetings with the earlier pattern of evidence in the wrongful conviction movement during the first months of his presidency, Angelo told members he thought pursuing this pattern was worthwhile and should be taken up by the union. This was what Angelo said in front of the members.

But afterward, away from the members, Angelo did nothing.

Talk to any attorneys or officers familiar with this pattern of evidence falsely accusing police officers, particularly retired detectives, and they will ask time and again: “When will the FOP get involved? Why is the FOP, the union that ostensibly represents police officers, wholly unwilling to take up this evidence that could go so far to exonerate the conduct of so many FOP members and undermine the industry based upon their false vilification?”

They never get an answer.

Now, compare Angelo’s refusal to do or say anything about the pattern of misconduct alleged in the wrongful conviction movement with his response to the Department of Justice investigation.

Confronted with the announcement last year that they were initiating this investigation, Angelo discovered a newfound energy and focus. Upon hearing that the DOJ was coming to town, Angelo couldn’t wait for them. He hopped on a plane to Washington DC to meet privately with them. He asked the DOJ how the FOP could help them in their investigation.

WTTW reported:

[Angelo] says he wanted to see how the FOP could “help facilitate the moving parts of the investigation.”

What?

Then Angelo threw his own members under the bus. He encouraged officers to meet with the federal agency without an attorney.

Wouldn’t the appropriate thing have been for Angelo to collect the evidence of misconduct in the anti-police movement and submit it to the DOJ? Wouldn’t the appropriate thing have been to contact retired detectives who had been the victim of false allegations and have them speak to the DOJ as an effort to balance out the DOJ’s investigation?

But he didn’t. Instead, Angelo stood before the members and announced with a straight face that there was nothing he could do to fight the DOJ, that their federal investigation was inevitable, knowing full well that a contrary pattern of evidence was unfolding in the federal courts as he made this clear falsehood to his own members.

By way of contrast, presidential candidate Kevin Graham on the Blue Voice slate has vowed to make false accusations against the police a central focus of his administration. As a sign of his commitment, Graham has chosen police officer and writer Martin Preib as his running mate. Preib’s writing has played a central role in uncovering corruption in the wrongful conviction movement.

Now it’s time for the members to decide who will be their next president, and perhaps nothing can guide them more clearly than Angelo’s response to these two strikingly different “patterns” of evidence. 

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, which played a critical role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns. He is also running for Second Vice President in the upcoming Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7 elections on the Blue Voice slate. 

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Flickr user 5chw4r7z.