Category Archives: Civil Rights

How to Recognize Police Misconduct

Law enforcement officials are supposed to be pillars of the community. They have been trained to watch over citizens and protect them from those who would do them harm. Because of their incredible amount of power and influence, the police are ostensibly held to very high standards regarding misconduct. When a law enforcement professional fails to follow the letter of the law and act in accordance with his or her position, there must be repercussions. Recognizing police misconduct is part of how society holds law enforcement accountable. You cannot assume that an officer’s actions are legal simply because he or she is an officer. Citizens should know how to identify police misconduct and the process used to hold officers accountable. When the Police Do Not Obey the Law The United States Constitution, and legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and related laws are intended to protect the nation’s citizens from government abuses. Section 1983 is the main civil rights law plaintiffs rely on in cases of police misconduct. The statute prevents officers and other state officials from taking away an individual’s constitutional rights. Any police officer who arrests an individual by using excessive force or without the evidence necessary to make an arrest may be brought to justice under this statute. Recognizing Misconduct Police misconduct can be difficult to identify. Sometimes the violations are egregious, but many police misconduct incidents ride a fine line between what is legal and what is not. Any time a law enforcement official uses excessive force or treats an individual noticeably different from others, it could be grounds for a case of misconduct. Other indicators of misconduct commonly involve strip searches or sexual assault. An officer should never make you feel dehumanized. The arresting process is intended to secure suspects for further evaluation, not to pass judgment or provide sentencing. Coercion and racial profiling are other forms of police misconduct that personal injury attorneys come across on a regular basis. If you feel that you or your loved one has been treated unfairly, contact an attorney for a free consultation. A personal injury attorney like the experienced lawyers at The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander can help you determine whether or not an action is legal and how to proceed if it is not. Read this article on How to Report Police Misconduct. Interacting with Law Enforcement in a Police Encounter It is imperative that all citizens know what police may or may not do. When stopped or questioned by police you have the right to: Remain silent. If you wish to exercise this right, say so out loud. Tell the officers that you will not consent to speak until you have consulted an attorney. Refuse consent to search. If not under arrest, you always have the right to leave. If arrested, you have the right to an attorney. Contact one right away. Acting out in the presence of law enforcement officials is never advisable. It is your responsibility to remain calm and to be polite. It is important that you do not interfere with or obstruct the police in any way.  Sometimes the police will disregard your rights or step beyond their bounds. Here are a few things to remember when dealing with police misconduct: Remain civil Write everything down Consult an attorney Even if you are not sure whether an officer’s behavior is legal, it is imperative to keep a record of everything that happened to the best of your knowledge. An attorney will use the information to supplement an independent investigation and build a case fighting for your rights. For more information about police misconduct in the Chicago and surrounding areas, please contact our dedicated personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander today.

How To Report Police Misconduct or Brutality in Illinois

During the last year, and for much of the last half century, police brutality has been a topic of debate in the United States. People want their public servants held to a high standard of conduct, without unnecessarily limiting the ability of law enforcement professionals to perform their protective roles. When police officers fail to follow protocols and maintain a high standard of ethics, they are abusing the power invested in them. Often, victims of police brutality are left fearful of the justice system and feel there is no outlet for recourse. Police misconduct can have devastating effects. It rips apart lives, families, and communities in ways that affect entire cities, like New York, Ferguson, and Chicago. Police Discrimination Statistics in Chicago 33% of Chicago’s population is African-American, but the arrest rate of black youth in the city is disproportionately high. In 2011, 77% of the Chicago Police Department’s youth arrests were of African-Americans and in 2012 that figure rose to 79%. The Chicago Police Department’s use of stun guns also came under fire in the report. 92% of the Chicago Police Department’s use of stun guns from 2009 to 2011 involved black and Latino targets. Stun gun manufacturers and law enforcement agencies claim that their implementation and use will reduce police involvement in shootings. However, as the Chicago Reporter observed, black residents are 10 times more likely than their white neighbors to be shot by a police officer. Most chilling of all, the report details that it is rare for Chicago police officers to be held accountable for misconduct. Of 10,149 excessive force, illegal search, racial abuse and false arrest complaints filed against Chicago police officers between 2002 and 2004, only 124 were sustained. A University of Chicago Law School report published in 2007 stated that brutality complaints filed against police in Chicago are 94% less likely to be sustained than anywhere else in the US. Only 0.48% of brutality complaints are sustained, compared to 8% nationally. How to Hold the Police Accountable  Many organizations of disparate affiliations and creeds are advocating for greater scrutiny of police departments. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has established the National Police Misconduct Project to raise awareness throughout the country. Anyone who wants to raise awareness of a case may do so through their project, but should know that anything described to them is fair game for publication. State, county, local, and municipal police departments have published complaint procedures. The Illinois State Police have a complaint process published online. However, it is very difficult to have a complaint successfully and thoroughly addressed through these processes. Obtaining expert legal counsel is one of the best ways to gain an equal footing with the police department. An attorney who is familiar with local police statutes and state laws will be able to help you take meaningful and timely action against misconduct.  Police misconduct and brutality can have devastating effects. Personal injury and wrongful death claims may arise from police brutality. Citizens are entitled to protection from abuse by those entrusted to protect and serve them. There are a few things to remember when dealing with police misconduct: Write everything down Consult with an attorney File a police misconduct report. The timing of a misconduct report is often strategic in light of pending criminal and civil cases. An attorney can help you with this process. It is important to follow these steps in order. Maintaining good records, whether written, audio, or video, can bolster claims made in civil and criminal courts. Filing a misconduct report can only occur after civil or criminal proceedings have been finished. Get in contact with Eugene K. Hollander Law immediately if a police officer has victimized you or a loved one.

Comcast Hit With Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Comcast Corporation was recently sued in federal court in Chicago by eleven current and former employees of the communcations giant, alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of race.  The employees, technicians who install equipment, charge that the company fostered a racially hostile work environment becasue they were called derogatory names such as "ghetto techs" or "lazy techs." The plaintiffs also claim that their work facility was infested with bugs and rats.  The technicians further claim that they were required to install defective and/or roach infested equipment in residents' homes, which were predominantly African American.  The employees are seeking class action status.  The plaintiffs hope to recover lost wages and benefits as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Illinois Appellate Court Clarifies Whistleblower Statute

The Illinois Appellate Court just issued an opinion clarifying the Illinois Whistleblower Statute.  Curtis Brame was a lieutentant with the North Chicago Police Department.  He brought suit against North Chicago, the mayor and police chief, alleging that the chief retaliated against him once he came forward with information that the chief was committing criminal activity.  The defendants filed motions to be dismissed from the case, and the trial court agreed.  On appeal, Brame raised an issue of first impression - whether bringing such claims directly to his employer was protected under the Act.  Previously, Illinois courts concluded that a plaintiff must bring such complaints to a third party agency.  The reviewing court agreed with the plaintiff, and held that the plain language of the act allowed him to bring such concerns directly to his employer.  We believe that this is a common sense approach to the law and will allow many more aggrieved employees access to the courts.

City of Chicago Approves $4 Million in Police Misconduct Cases

The City of Chicago approved payment of $4 million to settle several civil rights and wrongful death cases.  One case involved the Estate of Patricia Cobige.  Cobige was charged with heroin possession in 2006.  She was locked up at the Grand Central District police station.  Cobige requested that the police provide her with her medication for a heart condition, and the police allegedly refused.  Cobige was taken back to the lock-up, instead of being taken to a hospital.  She died in police custody.  A jury awarded her family $5 million.  The County approved a payment of $2.02 million to the family.  The County also approved a $1 million settlement to the family of Rafe McMullan, Jr.  McMullan was arrested for the offense of criminal trespass to property in November, 2008, only to be found dead in his cell at the Chicago Police Department's central detention unit.  If the case proceeded to trial, the Plaintiff's evidence would have been that several inmates would have testified that McMullan had been screaming in pain for some time.  Two other cases approved for settlement, included a claim that a quadriplegic was beaten up by police, and that an Iraqi war veteran was wrongfully imprisoned for two months for an armed robbery that he did not commit.

Seventh Circuit Revives Discrimination Lawsuit Against Law Firm

Two weeks ago, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revived a discrimination lawsuit against the law firm of SmithAmundsen, which was dismissed by a federal district court judge.  Laura Makowski was the former Marketing Director of the law firm.  According to her lawsuit, Makowski claimed that while she was on maternity leave in 2008, she was told by the managing partner that her job was being eliminated during a restructuring.  The Human Resources Director allegedly later told her that the law firm fired her because she took maternity leave.  The district court held that the Human Rescources Director's alleged statement was inadmissible hearsay and excluded it when ruling on the employer's motion for summary judgment.  He then dismissed the case.  The appeals court held that the lower court erred in finding that the statement was hearsay, since it was made by an agent of the employer.  Makowski filed suit under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and The Family and Medical Leave Act.

Republican Contender Cain Stirs Sexual Harassment Victims

While the Republican candidates for President debate each other, a more serious undertone has taken place regarding the upcoming presidential contest.  A number of former employees of Herman Cain allege that they were sexually harassed by this Republican contender for the country's highest office.  Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace feel that their once silent voice should be heard.  What can they do?  In Illinois, depending upon where the alleged acts of sexual harassment took place, there are a number of civil forums where a victim can pursue her claim.  If the claim occurred in the City of Chicago, one may potentially bring such a claim in one of four venues: both the City and Cook County have administrative forums, the Illinois Department of Human Rights administers claim before the state, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reviews charges of discrimination on the federal level.  The decision where to bring a claim is not an easy one, and should be done with counsel.  Certain forums permit punitive damages, and others do not.  Other determining factors are jurisdiction - to bring a sexual harassment claim before the EEOC, the employer must employ 15 or more people.  Additionally, claims before the city, county, and state agencies generally take longer to resolve than those that proceed through the EEOC and ultimately, federal court.  Last, depending when the harassment occurred may very well govern where and if a claimant can bring a claim at all.  Generally, a sexual harassment victim must file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights within 180 days of the harassment; for the EEOC, such a claim must be filed within 300 days.  Ironically, the number of charges of discrimination alleging sexual harassment has fallen over the past 13 years - in 1997, 15,889 charges were filed nationwide; in 2010, only 11,717 were filed.

Cops Shoot Dog and Jury Awards $330,000

A Chicago federal jury awarded a family a verdict of $330,000 after Chicago police officers raided a South Side Chicago home looking for criminal activity, but came up empty.  During the raid, the officers drew their guns.  One of the residents asked permission to lock up the family dog.  The officer refused, and when the animal came around the corner, the officer shot the dog.  The lawsuit alleged excessive force on the part of the police officers.