Ald.Burke disagrees with Abbate jury: No police ‘code of silence’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org November 14, 2012 7:26PM
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) reads budget as Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented his 2013 Budget to City Council last month. File photo. | John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:22PM
There’s no need for City Council hearings on the “code of silence” in the Chicago Police Department because there is no code of silence, the Council’s most powerful alderman said Wednesday.
One day after a federal jury citing a code of silence awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages to a female bartender beaten by a drunk off-duty police officer, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) essentially declared that the jury got it wrong.
Burke is a former Chicago Police officer who spent years as chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee. He currently serves as Finance Committee chairman.
Burke does not believe the Chicago Police Department engaged in a cover-up to conceal the brutal beating that burly former Police Officer Anthony Abbate inflicted on a diminutive bartender.
“In this day and age, everyone has a camera. Everyone has a cellphone. If the police don’t know it by now, then they’re not watching TV. They cannot expect to do something that won’t be captured on film. This is a classic example.
“He was a drunken, off-duty cop [who] was engaging in outrageous, reprehensible, completely unprofessional conduct. And he was prosecuted and disciplined,” the alderman said.
And nobody covered for him?
“Of course not,” Burke said.
Pressed on why Abbate wasn’t initially charged with a cover-up, Burke said, “That’s not my call. That’s up to the state’s attorney.”
Abbate’s brutal, February 2007 beating of Karolina Obrycka in a Northwest Side bar was captured on a notorious videotape that gave the Police Department a black eye around the world. The incident hastened the retirement of then-Police Supt. Phil Cline.
Obrycka accused the Police Department of attempting to spare itself and Abbate the embarrassment by engaging in a cover-up that stretched from the street to police headquarters.
Her attorney Terry Ekl charged that the alleged conspiracy included then-Internal Affairs Division chief Debra Kirby, a finalist for the job of police superintendent that ultimately went to current Supt. Garry McCarthy.
During the trial, Kirby saw her account of the police probe of Abbate directly contradicted by a sergeant and a top Cook County prosecutor, who said Kirby never made a phone call pushing for felony charges against Abbate, as Kirby claimed.
After the verdict, Ekl branded Kirby’s actions “reprehensible” and accused her of orchestrating the alleged cover-up.
“If it was up to me, I’d fire her today,” he said of the woman who now leads the police department’s Bureau of Professional Development.
Does Burke believe Kirby deserves to be fired?
“I have the utmost confidence in Superintendent Supt. Garry McCarthy. That’s up to him to assess — and I’m sure he will. In my opinion, he’s the most outstanding police chief in America today.”
Police Committee Chairman Jim Balcer (11th) expressed no particular interest in holding City Council hearings.
Balcer would only say, “If there’s a code of silence, there’s should be no code of silence. I see something wrong. You see something wrong. A policeman sees something wrong, they should report it as it is.”
He added, “Justice was served. It was a clear case of that woman being beaten up, and he’s held accountable now for it.”
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), an attorney who has represented plaintiffs suing the Police Department, said the Abbate case holds many costly lessons for the city.
“It was a jumbled, bumbled effort by the Police Department on somebody who should have been charged [with a felony] right away,” he said.
“Off-duty police officers need to be addressed. If anybody who’s drunk has a fight in a bar, does the city become responsible?”