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Embattled cop still on duty in Boystown

by Steven Chaitman

2009-08-19 Windy City Times - LINK

GLN permalink posted August 19, 2009

The lawsuits against allegedly anti-gay Chicago police officer Richard Fiorito are piling up. Windy City Times has learned that a district court judge recently granted almost 20 plaintiffs leave to file a joint complaint against the officer, who has been accused of falsifying DUI arrests while working the midnight shift in Boystown.

The amended complaint—sent by Jon Erickson, who represents the plaintiffs—alleges that Fiorito has engaged in a "continuing course of conduct" of civil-rights violations over six years that was motivated partly by hostility towards gay people. It also contains a civil RICO ( Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ) count claiming Fiorito engaged in a racketeering conspiracy to defraud the tax payers of money by committing perjury; false imprisonment/kidnapping; obstruction of justice; and fraud to illegally obtain overtime pay for court appearances for false DUI arrests. ( Other counts include malicious prosecution; violation of equal-protection rights; and illegal search and seizure, among others. ) Fiorito's lawyers have motioned to sever the case, but the judge was expected to deny this request.

As a result of the pending litigation and public pressure, Fiorito was ordered last March to use an in-car surveillance system, said Erickson. Erickson said his firm subpoenaed four videos of Fiorito arrests since then, and all the footage so far has been found incomplete. Missing are the key parts of the arrests such as the arrestee's poor driving and DUI-performance tests.

"He has manipulated the system somehow to avoid the detection of critical elements of DUI tests," Erickson said.

The video system activates when an officer's emergency roof or takedown lights are turned on, and it records continuously until the officer turns it off manually, according to a Chicago Police Department directive on the in-car cameras.

Meanwhile, according to 23rd District Commander Kathleen Boehmer, Fiorito is still on duty despite the pending lawsuits. Boehmer said that she's sure the Chicago Police Department is investigating the situation, as is the Independent Police Review Authority.

As to the question of why Fiorito has not been suspended from duty in the meantime, Boehmer declined to comment. As the case builds against Fiorito, Erickson and other concerned community members say that they'd like to see such action taken.

"There's a substantial showing—at least a preliminary showing—that there's something awry here and [ members of the Chicago Police Department ] have an obligation to take him off the street at least pending any investigation," Erickson said.

Andy Thayer of LGBT-rights group Gay Liberation Network said the organization plans to share its concerns at upcoming meetings in the 23rd District next week.

"This man who's got a fairly well demonstrated history of anti-LGBT prejudice should not have policing powers in the interim," Thayer said.

A meeting of the 23rd District's LGBT subcommittee will take place Wed., Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 3608 N. Halsted, and the District Advisory Committee will meet the next evening at 6 p.m at the same location.


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