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Editorial: No new version of code of silence

Former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate leaving court 2009 after he was sentenced two years probatifor beating up bartender KarolinObryckcaught-on-video

Former Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate leaving court in 2009 after he was sentenced to two years of probation for beating up bartender Karolina Obrycka in a caught-on-video attack that went viral. Brian Jackson/Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: December 21, 2012 9:17AM

During the investigation of former Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate, we saw a police code of silence at work. It took a video of Abbate beating bartender Karolina Obrycka that went viral on the Internet to overcome that silence.

But even after a jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 on Nov. 13, city lawyers tried to impose a new code of silence, a courtroom variety. The new code would have prevented the case from being used as a precedent for citizens in future lawsuits who believed they had been victimized by a police code of silence. The city didn’t want plaintiffs citing the Abbate decision to strengthen their own cases.

On Thursday, Judge Amy St. Eve wisely rejected that line of thinking. Under her ruling, Obrycka will get her money, and the verdict won’t be hidden away.

“The judgment in this case has ramifications for society at large, not just the city’s litigation strategies,” St. Eve wrote.

It’s only natural that the city would prefer to put this case behind it. The city points to reforms by a new mayor and police superintendent. The vilified Office of Professional Standards is no more. And, as Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton points out, the city continually works to stop any practices that might lead to future abuses. From the city’s point of view, the problem is solved.

But pardon us if we’re not ready to get out the buckets of whitewash just yet.

If the city didn’t want this case to be a precedent, it could have settled without tying up the courts for six years. It didn’t, city lawyers said, because the “case is matter of principle.”

It’s still a matter of principle. One we’re glad will be upheld.

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