Saturday, October 18, 2014

 

A Chicago police detective fired for posing with man wearing antlers

A Chicago police detective has been fired based on a decade-old photo in which he and disgraced former police Officer Jerome Finnigan are seen holding rifles and kneeling next to an African-American man lying on his stomach with deer antlers on his head, according to the Chicago Police Board.


The board, which considers discipline against officers, voted 5-4 at its meeting Thursday night to fire Detective Timothy McDermott, said Max Caproni, executive director of the panel. The photo was taken sometime between Oct. 14, 1999, and July 2, 2003, according to the charges filed against McDermott by Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who recommended that he be fired.

An attorney for McDermott vowed an appeal to Cook County Circuit Court on several fronts Friday.

Daniel Herbert said the city failed to present evidence of who took the photo or exactly where or when it was taken - or even who the African-American man shown in it is. The city did not present the original photo, a Polaroid, as evidence but rather a snapshot of it, he said.

"All they had was a photo of a photo," Herbert said.

During the period when the photo was taken, McDermott was assigned to the Special Operations Section, a notorious unit that was disbanded after it was revealed that members had engaged in numerous crimes and civil rights violations from 2002 to 2006. Finnigan, considered the ringleader of the crew, is serving a 12-year federal sentence on SOS-related charges.

McDermott, who was not implicated in the SOS scandal, was charged with violating four department rules and was found guilty of three violations: bringing discredit on the department, disrespecting or maltreating a person on or off duty and unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon, according to the board's decision.

Herbert said McDermott has only a vague recollection of the incident, saying he "jumped" into the photo at the last minute without "consciously thinking of what he was doing." In the image, McDermott's hand is on the man's throat.

He said "it was a split-second decision," Herbert said, adding that McDermott regrets being part of the image.

"He is a wonderful guy ... and an excellent police officer," Herbert said.

Herbert conceded that the "ugly image" was part of the decision to fire but said he also believes the links to SOS played a role. "He was fired because this photo involved Jerry Finnigan, who was arguably the most notorious criminal Chicago police officer ever," he said.


McDermott has been suspended without pay since the charges were filed last spring. The department's Bureau of Internal Affairs acted swiftly upon learning of the photo, a spokesman said. Herbert said the photo was turned over by the FBI, which investigated SOS.
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