A woman who alleges Chicago police raided her apartment by mistake and then gave her $1,000 in hush money got the go-ahead to pursue a civil rights claim against the city.
In a written opinion this week, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo declined to dismiss the city as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Sharon Spearman on behalf of herself and her two children.
Bucklo held Spearman alleged enough facts for a jury — if it believes those allegations — to hold the city liable for the purported violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Spearman contends the city routinely fails to supervise and discipline its police officers.
She also contends a code of silence in the Chicago Police Department leads officers to refuse to reveal their colleagues’ wrongdoing.
And she maintains the code of silence also leads the city to try to buy citizens’ silence with money obtained through shakedowns or other improper means.
In support of her assertion that the city has turned a blind eye to police misconduct, Spearman contended the four officers she sued together have been the subject of 90 complaint registers, or citizen complaints.
Spearman noted Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a news conference in December acknowledged there is a code of silence within the police department.
A jury had reached the same conclusion three years earlier in Karolina Obrycka v. City of Chicago, No. 07 C 2372 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 13, 2012), Spearman said.
She also noted that between 2007 and 2012, nine police officers were convicted or pleaded guilty to officials misconduct during traffic stops or searches of homes.
One of those nine officers in a 2012 interview said stealing from citizens during searches was common and was condoned by commanding officers, Spearman said.
And she contended her claim against the city is supported by its payment of $5 million to the family of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot to death in 2014 by a police officer.
Bucklo rejected the argument that Spearman’s factual allegations aren’t enough to support her claim against the city because each of those allegations, standing alone, is not enough to show the city is liable for the officers’ actions.
“This divide-and-conquer mode of argument is unpersuasive and runs afoul of the firmly established requirement that complaints be read as a whole,” Bucklo wrote Monday.
Taken together, she wrote, the allegations are adequate to support a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
Bucklo denied the city’s motion to dismiss Spearman’s claim against it.
The lead attorney for Spearman, Gregory E. Kulis of Gregory E. Kulis and Associates Ltd., said he’s pleased with Bucklo’s ruling.
Police misconduct has been “swept under the rug” for too long, Kulis contended.
He contended police took $10,000 from the second apartment they raided, but reported taking only $5,000. And Kulis said he has still not seen any paperwork from the police on the raid on Spearman’s apartment.
He said the situation “reflects the climate among some police officers — and I say some, not all — that they can do some things and get away with it.”
The lead attorney for the city and the four officers named as defendants is Kenneth M. Battle of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer P.A.
The city is also represented by Bret A. Kabacinski of the corporation counsel’s office.
The attorneys either declined to comment or could not be reached.
Spearman alleges several armed police officers broke down her front door in March 2015 and put her in handcuffs while they searched her apartment.
The officers eventually realized they had searched the wrong apartment and left, Spearman contends.
After the officers searched the apartment identified on the warrant, she contends, one of the them returned and gave her $1,000.
She believes the officers took the cash from the other apartment they searched, Spearman says.
She contends the officers never filed a report detailing the raid of her apartment.
And she contends the raid left her and her two children traumatized.
In her opinion, Bucklo rejected the argument that Spearman defeated her own case by noting Emanuel criticized the code of silence during the December press conference.
Emanuel’s statement doesn’t mean all officials condemn the code, Bucklo wrote.
Also, she continued, “it is entirely conceivable for policymakers to tacitly approve of the code of silence even while paying lip service to the need for its eradication.”
The case is Sharon Spearman, et al. v. Sgt. Elizondo #1340, et al., No. 15 C 7029.