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Judge upholds firing of Chicago cop over controversial photo

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CHICAGO – A judge ruled today that a former Chicago police office who posed in a photo holding a rifle, standing over an African American man wearing antlers, will not get his job back.

The photo was taken at a West Side police station sometime between 1999 and 2003. The image shows two officers, Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan, kneeling over the black man. The black man in the photo has not been identified.

The photo was given to the city by federal prosecutors in 2013. That was two years after their investigation which lead to Finnigan being sentenced to 12 years in prison for leading a crew of rogue cops in robberies, home invasions and other crimes.  McDermott was fired last year after the photo came to light.

McDermott is determined to get re-instated. Today he spoke for the first time since this photo surfaced last month.

“I spent 17 years serving and protecting the citizens of Chicago in every neighborhood,” he said. “I loved every minute of it I am fully prepared to continue this fight for my job.”

Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott, right, with an unidentified man. Photo obtained from court file from the Office of the Cook County Clerk.

Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott, right, with an unidentified man. Photo obtained from court file from the Office of the Cook County Clerk.

But a judge sided with the police board's 5-4 ruling to fire McDermott and agreed that “appearing to treat an African American man not as a human being but as a hunted animal is disgraceful” and that the photo created community contempt against the police department.

Attorney Dan Herbert feels his client should have been suspended and argues that the African American man seen in the photo has never been identified and could not explain the circumstances.

“We respectfully disagree with his ruling today and we're prepared to take this to the next level because we really believe we have some very strong legal arguments,” Herbert said.

“There was no maltreatment of this individual because the evidence shows he was not an arrestee and the evidence is undisputed that he was not forced into this photo.”

Frank Chapman, who has worked for decades to end racially motivated policing and works with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression feels the judge made the right call today.

“You have to be held accountable for it,” he said. “The mature attitude would be face the music.”

The judge also stressed that McDermott violated three of the police department’s conduct rules; maltreatment of an individual, unlawful display of a weapon, and basically discrediting or damaging the police department’s relationship with the community.

McDermott’s attorney says he plans to move to the appellate court now.


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