A Cook County jury on Friday awarded a former Chicago police detective more than $4.3 million in damages after deciding the city violated the Illinois Whistleblower act.
Former Chicago police detective Beth Svec alleged in a 2017 lawsuit that the department retaliated against her after she brought forward evidence contradicting two officers’ narrative of an arrest the year before.
Svec’s lawyer, Torreya Hamilton, said the verdict should motivate “good police officers to come forward” when they witness wrongdoing.
“If the department doesn’t have your back, a jury will,” Hamilton wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
City representatives didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Svec was involved in a pilot program on the South Side investigating gun cases in CPD’s Area South detective regions, according to the initial complaint filed in Cook County circuit court. In May 2016, she was assigned to investigate a case involving the arrest of two men by two CPD officers.
The officers told Svec they arrested two men — one who was sitting on top of a gun on a barstool on a front porch, and one who allegedly punched an officer in the head when they approached the first man, the suit said.
That series of events was documented from the officers’ point of view in a police report at the time, according to the suit. The men were to be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and aggravated battery to a police officer, the complaint said.
The two men who were arrested contradicted the officers’ version of events in interviews with Svec, the suit said.
Eyewitness accounts and recovered video footage of the arrest were also inconsistent with the officers’ narrative, according to the complaint.
Svec argued that she continued to inform her supervisers and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office of the situation. The state’s attorney’s office contacted CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, which launched an investigation.
Svec was transferred to the Englewood district, told to work midnight shifts instead of her typical early mornings and told not to investigate unlawful gun possession cases, the suit said.
A jury decided Friday the department was in violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act, which protects people who disclose violations of state or federal law from retaliation.
Hamilton said police reform needs to start internally.
“The only people who can change the Chicago police department are the ones on the inside,” Hamilton said.