When then Area 2 Detectives Commander Rodney Blisset told Isaac Lambert that Lambert was losing his job as a detective sergeant and sent to work in patrol, he couldn’t give Lambert a reason for the demotion. More than a year later, when a city attorney suggested Blisset’s boss wanted Lambert moved because he was a problem officer, Blisset was outraged, the retired commander testified Tuesday in Lambert’s whistleblower trial.
Lambert has sued the city and the Chicago Police Department, alleging he was dropped from his job as a detective because he pushed back when supervisors tried to get him to alter reports on a fellow officer’s 2017 off-duty shooting of an unarmed teenager.
On the stand Tuesday, Blisset recalled a 2019 conversation with city attorneys after Lambert filed his lawsuit, when Blisset was asked several times about Lambert. Blisset’s boss, former CPD Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples, had told city lawyers that Blisset had complained about Lambert.
“I said, ‘The chief is a damn liar,’” Blisset said. “I never had a conversation with the chief about Ike’s performance or anything else,” Blisset said, taking a long pause.
“I said, ‘You all needed to get that s—- straight before you go to court, because I’m not lying for nobody.’”
Tuesday opened the second week of testimony in Lambert’s case. The veteran detective was supervising detectives the night Sgt. Khalid Muhammad shot Ricardo Hayes in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 2017, after Muhammad saw the teen, who has autism, running and skipping along a sidewalk in the Morgan Park neighborhood.
Muhammad fired from inside his SUV after calling the teen over, telling investigators that he thought Hayes was reaching for a weapon. Hayes was unarmed, but Lambert said his supervisors pushed him to list Muhammad as the victim of an aggravated assault in reports. Muhammad was suspended for six months, and the city later paid out $2.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed on the teen’s behalf.
Unmentioned in front of the jurors Tuesday was the fact that Blisset, who has since retired, sued the city over his own demotion in 2020, the result, he claims, of his outspoken defense of Lambert. Blisset’s case is set for trial in January.
City attorneys have said that Lambert was demoted because of the nearly two years it took to complete final reports on the shooting, though Lambert testified that he had been filling in for another supervisor on the night of the shooting and wasn’t asked about the case again until 2018, when a supervisor told him to help a rookie detective complete the file.
Lambert is seeking compensation for lost overtime wages and other damages. Tuesday, his therapist testified Lambert suffers from anxiety and stress, much of it tied to his lawsuit. In one session, Lambert said he was in conflict with his own lawyers.
Lambert’s concern was “if this issue was resolved outside of court, he wouldn’t be able to speak his truth,” therapist Timothy Pearman said. “His hope in all of this litigation was that there would be systematic changes in the way cases like this are handled in the future … rather than any kind of financial resolution.”