City settles with victims of police wrongdoing for $4 million
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com December 12, 2011 3:24PM
Updated: January 14, 2012 8:12AM
Chicago taxpayers will spend nearly $4 million to compensate victims of police wrongdoing — including families of two people who died in police custody after their cries for medical help went ignored — under settlements advanced Monday by livid aldermen.
“Listening to that, you might suspect that we were in the Gulag or a communist North Korean prison,” said Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), whose committee reluctantly approved the settlements.
“I recall this chamber arguing over library hours that this $4 million would have covered. This is ridiculous,” said Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st).
Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) added, “How many police officers could we put on the beat for $4 million?... Isn’t it just common sense that somebody would check on somebody on a cell than let it go for that long? It’s unconscionable.”
The Finance Committee is routinely asked to approve multi-million-dollar pay-outs to victims of police brutality. But, seldom are aldermen asked to approve so many big-ticket settlements stemming from such egregious conduct on the same day, involving officers who were never punished for their actions.
That’s what happened Monday.
The largest of the four settlements — for $2.02 million — would go to the family of 46-year-old Patricia Cobige.
Charged with heroin possession in 2006, Cobige died at the Grand Central District station lock-up after police ignored her six pleas for pain treatment for a heart condition.
Dismissed as “dope sick,” Cobige was even taken back to the lock-up — past several hospitals where she might have been treated — when she was too ill to appear in court for a bond hearing. Last year, a federal jury awarded $5 million to the Cobige family.
Aldermen also approved a $1 million settlement to the family of 52-year-old Rafe McMullan, Jr., who was arrested for criminal trespass to property in November, 2008 only to be found 18 hours later in “full rigor mortis” in his cell at the Chicago Police Department’s central detention unit.
If the case had gone to trial, three inmates in the detention unit that night were also prepared to testify that McMullan was “screaming and yelling for a long period of time, as if he were in a lot of pain,” said First Assistant Corporation Counsel Leslie Darling.
Witnesses would also testify that McMullan “called out to lock-up personnel a number of times that he was sick and needed to go to the hospital and pounded on the cell door to get their attention,” Darling said.
She noted that the victim “never received medical care in the lock-up. In fact when examined by paramedics on the scene, the victim was in full rigor-mortis, a condition that begins within two-to-six-hours after death.”
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer, called the case “really disturbing.”
“I was the watch commander in Central detention for three years and part of the process is that supervisors, as well as detention aides, go and check the cells every 15 minutes,” Cochran said.
Burke added, “If this is indicative of a pattern of conduct, then there has to be in-service training for officers and civilian aides assigned to these detention facilities or the Red Cross or some independent agency needs to be brought in to make periodic evaluations.”
The two other cases include a $290,000 settlement to a 26-year-old quadriplegic allegedly beaten by police and $560,000 to an Iraq War veteran who spent two months in jail — and lost out on a state job — after being arrested for an armed robbery he did not commit.