Chicago, IL – A Chicago police lieutenant filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city on Tuesday that claimed he was reassigned after he complained about illegal arrest and traffic stop quotas.
Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent David Brown created the Community Safety Team (CST) in July of 2020 to focus on reducing crime and improving police relationships with community members, WBBM reported.
CPD Lieutenant Franklin Paz Jr. was assigned to the CST by Superintendent Brown to manage a “platoon” of dozens of officers and sergeants.
But the 48-year-old Lt. Paz said in his lawsuit against the city that the CST did the exact opposite of its goal of improving the police department’s relationship with the residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods in Chicago.
The lieutenant’s lawsuit claimed that supervisors told the team to practice quota-based policing during investigatory stops of civilians in violation of Illinois law, WBBM reported.
The lawsuit said that CPD Deputy Chief Michael Barz, who commanded the unit, pushed Lt. Paz and the other lieutenants to have their officers make more traffic stops and arrests and issue more citations during their shifts but did not give them any justification for such an order.
“The use of numbers and statistics, particularly traffic stops, became the primary basis that Barz used to evaluate the work that the officers under his command were doing,” the lawsuit said.
Lt. Paz’s lawsuit said that Deputy Chief Barz “expected” the officers assigned to CST to “generate specific amounts of police activity per shift they worked,” WBBM reported.
City records showed that more than 1,000 CPD officers were assigned to CST when it was created.
The lawsuit also said that Deputy Chief Barz “demanded certain numbers relating to police activity, regardless of the criminal or traffic activity justifying police intervention,” WBBM reported.
“In other words, regardless of the criminal activity occurring that day, his officers were required to make the same number of stops,” the lawsuit alleged.
Paz’s attorney, Torri Hamilton, told WBBM that the quotas initiated by Deputy Chief Barz only served to widen the divide between the police department and the community it served.
The lawsuit said Lt. Paz believed the deputy chief was pressuring officers to engage in illegally activity that would lead to profiling.
Illinois statute says that a police agency cannot require an officer issue a specific number of citations within a certain period of time, according to WBBM.
Lt. Paz’s lawsuit said that “by demanding a certain number of stops without regard to the criminal activity justifying those stops, Barz was effectively requiring officers to engage in unlawful profiling, seizures of people that were not justified by probable cause, and violations of the civil rights of persons they encountered.”
The suit also said Deputy Chief Barz specifically told officers they needed “a minimum of 10 blue cards per day,” WBBM reported.
CPD officers are required to create a “blue card” when they detain a citizen but do not make an arrest or issue a citation.
In his lawsuit, Lt. Paz said he went to Deputy Chief Barz about his concerns and suggested that CST emphasize community policing instead, WBBM reported.
“F–k community policing, I need activity,” Lt. Paz claimed the deputy chief replied in his lawsuit.
The suit also alleged that Deputy Chief Barz threatened to “blow up the entire platoon” and “dump” everyone assigned to the CST if they didn’t follow his orders, WBBM reported.
Lt. Paz has claimed that after he raised concerns about illegal quotas with the deputy chief, he also brought the problem to other supervisors in the police department.
That’s when the retaliation began, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said that Lt. Paz sent an email again expressing his concerns to Deputy Chief Barz on Sept. 25, 2020 and cited the federal consent decree with which the police department was supposed to be complying, WBBM reported.
“I cannot in good faith and will not mandate Officers to bring in ‘x’ amount of numbers and activity,” Lt. Paz wrote. “This is the exact reason we are in a consent decree as we speak.”
“This email is a gross misrepresentation of the conversation and expectations I have with you and the Community Safety Teams,” the deputy chief replied, according to WBBM.
The lawsuit said that a week later, Lt. Paz was reassigned from CST to Patrol.
So he filed a complaint with the Chicago Inspector General that alleged he was being retaliated against because he “refused to participate in the illegal policing tactics” and tattled to other supervisors, WBBM reported.
“Instead of protecting and shielding whistleblowers from retaliation, the City of Chicago allows its police department to formally retaliate against whistleblowers by ‘dumping’ them to unfavorable assignments,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit said Lt. Paz was “forced” into being a whistleblower, which caused “extreme humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety and stress” and resulted in him having to be hospitalized, WBBM reported.
“Despite the professional and personal stresses and challenges to come forth, today I am doing what is right and what is necessary to highlight an illegal policing practice that officers are being ordered to participate in,” Lt. Paz said in a statement through his attorney.
Shortly before Lt. Paz challenged the head of the CST in an email, Superintendent Brown publicly lauded him and promoted him from commander to deputy chief, WBBM reported.
Today, I promoted Commander Michael Barz to Deputy Chief of the Community Safety Team. His hard work and leadership has not gone unnoticed since we launched CST in July. He'll continue to lead these enhanced efforts to serve residents and strengthen community bonds. pic.twitter.com/XWZeoS2sKo
— Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown (@ChiefDavidBrown) September 18, 2020
The lawsuit claimed that Lt. Paz has been left in charge of the CST despite being made aware he was ordering quota-based policing, WBBM reported.
The actions of the newly-formed CST have not been without criticism.
The unit had a controversial officer-involved shooting shortly after CST was formed and at that time it became public that team members, who were mostly pulled from SWAT, gun, and gang units, weren’t being required to wear bodycams, WBBM reported.
CPD refused to comment because the lawsuit is pending.