A Review of Waukegan’s “Costly Record of Misconduct”

By: Joan Williams

The Chicago Tribune’s November 1 cover story discusses the cost of misconduct for Waukegan police officers. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, no police agency in Illinois, except for Chicago, has more wrongful convictions than Waukegan. The police in the far north suburb sent six men to prison who were later cleared by either DNA or medical evidence. One of those men was Loyola’s Life After Innocence client Angel Gonzalez.

Insurers and the city have paid 26.1 million dollars in police cases since 2006, outspending towns with more police and, in some cases, more violent crimes. What is going on in Waukegan? The article notes that the majority of the residents are African-American or Hispanic, and the police are white. Similarly, a wide majority of the payouts since 2006 went to African-Americans and Hispanics.   Additionally, police in the department with troubled records were among the arresting officers. These seem to be common factors in wrongful conviction statistics.

Considering the issues in Waukegan, the US Department of Justice should consider investigating the police practices to avoid further discord between the police and the residents. It’s unsettling to learn that city officials continue to approve the settlements without calling for greater scrutiny of the police department. Lack of diversity and justice appears to be an issue throughout the city, not just within the police department and should be rectified in light of discord throughout the country.

For the reviewed Chicago Tribune article, click here.

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