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Complaints against police officers down on Weis’ watch

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis came into office in 2008 with a mandate to crack down on officer misconduct following a string of scandals.

When Mayor Daley appointed him, Weis said, “public confidence in the police department has eroded” because “some officers have fundamentally abused their trust.”

Yet during his first three years in office, Weis filed 62 disciplinary cases with the Police Board compared to 106 cases in the three years before he was appointed — nearly a 42 percent difference, records show.

The Police Board is comprised of nine mayoral appointees who consider disciplinary action against officers. Most cases filed with the board seek to fire the employee in question.

Some department observers wonder if Weis put the brakes on Police Board cases to boost morale. Cops have been furious with him over several issues, including the imprisonment of an officer accused of beating a man shackled to a wheelchair.

Others think cops have been working the streets less aggressively and making fewer arrests because they do not feel Weis has their backs.

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, declined comment.

But a spokeswoman for Weis said the decrease in Police Board cases simply demonstrates that cops have improved their behavior.

“First and foremost, this is positive,” said the spokeswoman, Lt. Maureen Biggane. “The superintendent has pushed for a more professional police department, and one could make the argument his message is being well received.”

Biggane said citizen complaints against officers have been falling in recent years, which she attributed to improved training and a new performance evaluation system. The system, launched in 2009, gives officers access to their supervisors’ appraisals of them.

“And it allows the supervisors to look for any emerging problems before they become a huge issue,” she said.

Biggane also said the department made changes last October that should speed up the process for reviewing Police Board cases.

In the past, the superintendent reviewed every case. Now the deputy superintendent of the Bureau of Professional Standards makes the final call on whether to send a case to the Police Board, Biggane said.

Weis filed 28 cases with the Police Board in 2008, 21 in 2009 and 13 in 2010, according to records kept by the board.

By contrast, 15 cases were filed with the board in 2005, 34 in 2006 and 57 in 2007. Phil Cline was the police superintendent in 2005 and 2006 and retired in August 2007. Interim Supt. Dana Starks headed the department for the rest of 2007 and filed many of the Police Board cases that year, officials said.

About 25 new disciplinary cases are in the final stages of legal review before they can be filed with the Police Board this year, officials said.

Weis’ contract expires in March, but Daley said he intends to keep him as police superintendent until May, when a new mayor will take office.

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