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Top brass to review disciplinary process for cops

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy Police Headquarters August. | John H. White~Sun-Times

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy at Police Headquarters in August. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 20, 2013 6:12AM

In the wake of the City Council’s approval of almost $33 million to settle two police misconduct cases, city officials on Friday announced an outside review of the disciplinary process for cops.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton said experts will look into what’s being done to prevent police misconduct, how it’s reported and how it’s investigated.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for the review several months ago, they said.

A.T. Kearney, a management consultant firm, will conduct the review for free, Patton said. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Safer, who is with the law firm Schiff Hardin, will focus on the legal issues surrounding police discipline.

Last week, the City Council approved a $10.25 million settlement for a wrongfully imprisoned man and $22.5 million for a mentally ill woman who was attacked and left severely disabled after police released her in a high-crime area.

And in November, a federal jury said the city should pay a female bartender $850,000 for the beating she suffered from off-duty Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate.

The jury found a “code of silence” in the department protects rogue officers like Abbate. Future lawsuits against the city could cite the verdict as evidence of a “pattern and practice” of police misconduct, legal experts say.

Patton said the review wasn’t launched because of a specific case. But he noted: “If we can minimize police misconduct from occurring and make sure when it does occur that it’s thoroughly investigated and disciplined, would that help us? Yes, from a financial standpoint both in terms of reducing exposure and liability.”

Patton and McCarthy said they’ve already been working together to reduce the department’s exposure to lawsuits.

One example: the department’s handling of the NATO Summit protests in May. McCarthy and Patton said they made sure officers gave ample warning to protesters before making arrests during the NATO Summit — unlike a 2003 anti-war march that resulted in a legal payout of $11 million, including attorney fees and compensation to about 900 people.

McCarthy added that he’s been working to reform the department’s internal disciplinary process since he took office in 2011. “Garry and I have been partnering for 20 months in risk management,” Patton said.

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