Aldermen prod cops on bungled cases

  • Medill News Service
  • February 09, 2006 @ 5:45 AM
Angry Chicago aldermen lashed out Wednesday at the Chicago Police Department, expressing exasperation with the recent parade of multi-million dollar settlements caused by police errors.

The cavalcade of criticism came minutes before the City Council agreed to write a $9 million check to a Chicago man wrongfully convicted of raping and robbing an elderly woman in 1993. It was the second multi-million dollar payout in as many months.

"We're about to spend $9 million on a case that we did not have to spend $9 million on simply because someone did something stupid," said Ald. Ed Smith (28th).

Lafonso Rollins was 17 when he was sent to prison on a rape and robbery conviction. He spent 11 years behind bars before DNA evidence collected as part of his appeal cleared him. Smith lamented the years Rollins lost behind bars.

"This young boy spent 11 years in jail, the better half of his life," Smith said. "He's going to live with that for the rest of his life because of some stupid stuff that the investigative officer did to him as a kid."

Rollins' case prompted the Chicago Police Department and the city to announce a wholesale investigation into procedures at the old Chicago crime lab, which closed in 1996.

Police lab work has since been handled by state facilities. Several aldermen stressed the need for a new city laboratory.

"It seems to me that it is time that we seriously begin to look at what it takes for the City of Chicago, either on its own or in collaboration with the county, to finally begin to see that we have out own crime lab," said Ald. Helen Shiller (46th).

Saying that it is "not the goal of cops to frame innocent people," Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee, decried the fact that the real assailant has yet to be caught.

"The rush to judgment that was involved in this case was not the high point in the history of the Chicago Police Department," Burke said.