In February 2007, Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate was captured on video attacking and punching 125-pound bartender Karolina Obrycka at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn near Belmont and Long on Chicago’s northwest side. Abbate allegedly became enraged when Obrycka refused to continue serving him alcohol after he was already intoxicated. Abbate claimed to be acting in self defense. You can evaluate that claim for yourself based on the infamous video (embedded below). Unsurprisingly, Judge John Fleming didn’t buy the self defense line, and convicted Abbate of aggravated battery and sentenced him in June 2009 to community service, anger management counseling, and two years of probation.
Obrycka has filed a civil lawsuit against Abbate and the City which is currently pending before Judge Amy St. Eve in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The parties are currently engaged in expert discovery.
Among the more interesting issues is Obrycka’s Monell claim, in which she argues that the City’s defective and biased procedures for investigating complaints of excessive force by Chicago police officers was a cause of the beating — essentially that Abbate knew he could act with impunity. In support of this contention, Obrycka’s lawyers have offered several expert witnesses, including Thomas Smith, the former chief investigator at the Office of Professional Standards (now known as the Independent Police Review Authority). Smith identified ten factors that negatively impacted OPS’s ability to adequately investigate complaints of police misconduct. Some of the factors Smith identifies are:
- A rule barring investigators from reviewing past civilian complaints against an accused officer;
- The policy of finding a complaint “not sustained” unless there is physical evidence to prove the civilian’s version of events;
- The fact that accused officers are not required to give an interview to an investigator, but rather can answer questions in writing;
- A lack of independence from the Chicago police department;
- The multiple levels of review and second-guessing after OPS made a disciplinary determination;
- The requirement that a complainant must submit a sworn affidavit before any investigation can commence.
Judge St. Eve ruled June 16, that these opinions were relevant and admissible.
After the SOS scandal, which resulted in the indictment of numerous police officers from the “Special Operations Section,” the City tried to clean up some of the problems with OPS by renaming it the “Independent Police Review Authority.” But many believe that’s just window dressing. The definition of “not sustained” is the same; the sworn affidavit requirement is the same; IPRA is even housed in the exact same office as OPS was.