It's open season on the police - well, let's be honest; it is ALWAYS open season on the police. That's especially true in Chicago. With the Abate fiasco and the SOS scandal, the slip and fall lawyers are as thick as thieves. Dewey, Cheatham and Howe are using every trick in their disgusting bag of tricks in order to paint the police as abusive, uncaring and untrustworthy. And they do this to make a quick buck for themselves and their clients.
Just to point out the obvious - Police officers are assumed to have ultimate credibility in court. Their testimony and reliability were, up until recently, beyond reproach. To be sure, some jury members may have a tainted view of law enforcement because of recent high profile stories involving law enforcement.
But should police officers be held liable for punitive damages because a dope-sick 46 year old woman dies in her sleep while sitting in her cell?
In a recent court case, a jury decided yes. And Chicago police officers in that case should pay $1,000 each in punitive damages, just for being at work that day.
In busy districts like 007, 015 and 025, lockups routinely get arrestees who are "dope sick" (they're going through heroin withdrawal). DS is lousy - it's painful process whose worst manifestation is vomiting or nausea. If an arrestee complains about breathing problems or chest pains; the lockup personnel will get a unit to take them to the hospital for a "medical clearance." Arrestees know that if they complain, they get a free trip to the E/R at WestSub, Our Lady of Resurrection or St. Bernard's. It is done to limit liability. If someone on custody dies on your watch, then you've got alot of explaining to do. The Monday Morning Quarterbacking would be in full effect.
[Here's a list of symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal.]
Even 10 years ago there wouldn't be one person going to the hospital during an officer's tour in lockup. Now? It's at least 2 or 3 that cry about being sick; mostly asthma or chest pains. I know of no case in which the complaining arrestee actually had his life saved by going to the hospital. But desk sergeants will send any complainer right to the hospital in order to protect themselves from the liability - just in case this is the one case in one-thousand where the arrestee actually is sick. In other words, if you complain, you go.
This is a shame because the vast majority of prisoners are only complaining in order to get out of lockup for a few hours - in order to stick it to the department, or to create an opportunity for escape.
So put your self in the position of a Chicago police officer who shows up to work lockup one day. You walk in and there are 14 females in custody, you walk around and see one sleeping. You wake her and she says she's having stomach pains. In fact, your arrestee, who was rejected from Bond court that morning for a stomach ache, tells you that she's "having menstrual cramps that come and go." You inquire further and you learn she's going through heroin withdrawal. She goes to sleep and, without any further complaints, goes to sleep.
At some point during the night she dies from what the medical examiner states is the "result of a sudden arrhythmia in the context of hypertensive heart disease and an enlarged heart."
Gee - do you think that maybe doing heroin for 35 years contributed to her heart problem?
Well you can't expect a Cook County Jury to examine the facts dispassionately - after all Cobige died while in "dee poleeces" custody so they must have done something to her, right?
In today's environment there is so much fear of lawsuits that the police go OUT OF THEIR WAY to protect themselves: if that means taking some shithead to the hospital so be it.
The officers involved in this case testified that at no point did Cobige tell CPD personnel that she wanted to go to the hospital. Notice that the court transcript "claims" that fellow arrestees said that Cobige asked to go to the hospital. Even the wagon guys on 2nd watch asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital and she said no. She said they were menstrual cramps.
So why did the jury award $5 million dollars to the son of the deceased? Why did they award $1,000 punitive damages from each officer that worked that day?
Because the jury heard testimony from one of the police personnel that conflicted with the story: Detention Aide "MD". DA "D" testified that the deceased did ask to go to the hospital but that on-duty officers refused to take her.
Now if you knew DA "D", she is no shrinking violet. DA "D" is known to be assertive and decisive when dealing with prisoners. She certainly would have picked up the phone and called for an ambulance herself, if she thought the woman's safety was in jeopardy.
So why would she take the side of the plaintiff in this case? Why would she tell out right lies about officers that she works with day in, and day out? During her testimony she was impeached multiple times.
Who knows exactly but, what didn't make it to the court transcript is that Detention Aide "D" alegedly has "issues" with the police department. A number of years ago officers executed a search warrant at her home and dragged her son off to jail. Maybe she has some axe to grind and figured this would be a good spot to take out her frustrations with the police. That is only conjecture. I don't know DA "D" and I don't know what would compel her to lie on the witness stand.
But I do know that at various times during her testimonY, Detention Aide "D" impeached herself. She was caught. And what happened? Nothing - except the son of the deceased is $5,000,000 richer, and the officers involved in this ridiculous lawsuit are each on the hook for $1,000 in punitive damages. And Detention Aide "D" - a Rule 14 violator if I ever saw one - is still working in 025 lockup.
If you would like to send a donation to help the officers involved in this case, please contact Anne Belluomini at 312-746-8605.
This case is an outrage. But it is symptomatic of an unfair judicial system that plays on hatred for the police to juries who are all too willing to believe outrageous stories about false negligence.
Welcome to the courts of Cook County. Our very own Never-Never Land that elevates Vice, and denigrates Virtue.