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The FOP’s misguided bid to ‘protect’ over release of Koschman report

Updated: December 18, 2013 6:46AM



Bob Angone is a 73-year-old retired Chicago Police lieutenant and news junkie. Like a lot of cops I know, he has closely followed the story of David Koschman, a 21-year-old Mount Prospect man who died in 2004 after an altercation on Division Street involving Richard J. Vanecko, the grandson and nephew of two mayors named Daley.

This week Angone fired off a letter to the Sun-Times taking strong issue with his former union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

Why?

Because the FOP went to court this month to ask Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Toomin to permanently seal “The Death of David Koschman: Report of the Special Prosecutor Dan K. Webb.”

Permanently. Seal.

So no one could ever read why, after almost a decade, the appointment of a special prosecutor was necessary to investigate — and ultimately charge Vanecko — in a homicide police and prosecutors seemed either unwilling or unable to.

Angone, a former SWAT team coordinator with 33 years on the force, found it to be an outrageous request and expressed his outrage in blistering terms:

“By asking the judge . . . to permanently seal this testimony ‘because it might tarnish the reputations of policemen’ is so astonishing that it defies logic,” he wrote. “We all live and work in this city, and what happened to David Koschman, no matter what the outcome at trial is, we citizens have the right to know if there is indeed a stench that has kept justice from taking its course. By advocating to permanently silence this report would in my opinion erode the very fabric of a free society and make a mockery out of our department’s slogan ‘We serve and protect.’ It’s not we serve and protect our union members but all citizens of the city of Chicago. May the stench of clout fall where it may.”

Though the Sun-Times and NBC5 asked the court to immediately unseal the report, the judge ruled in favor of a “temporary” seal until Vanecko’s involuntary manslaughter trial in February was over.

But Toomin also took issue with what he thought of the merits — or lack thereof — of the FOP’s assertion that releasing the report would cause police to be “tarred with associative guilt” or subject them to “an undeserved invasion of personal privacy.”

“It would be difficult,” ruled the judge “to find a matter of greater public concern . . .”

But FOP President Mike Shields and union attorney Paul Geiger told me by phone Thursday that the news reporting on this case, including the Sun-Times’ publication of a photo of Vanecko in a lineup beside identified police officers, had had a “chilling effect” on the officers’ ability to do their jobs.

The union’s role, they said, is to protect the rights of its members, “not to police the Police Department on investigations. We don’t know what happened in the Koschman investigation.”

But that’s the real point, isn’t it?

We don’t know what happened.

And it’s high time we did.

Email: cmarin@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CarolMarin



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