CHICAGO — The former Chief of Detectives for the Chicago Police Department testified Monday that she transferred one of her former subordinates — a sergeant who eventually brought a whistleblower lawsuit against the city — because he failed to perform basic duties of a supervisor.
Melissa Staples, who led the CPD’s Detective Division August 2016 until January 2020, told jurors that she removed Sgt. Isaac Lambert from the division after learning that he assigned a rookie detective to investigate a controversial police shooting on the Far South Side in August 2017.
“I felt like [with] his experience in the Detective Division, he should’ve known better,” Staples said during her several hours of testimony Monday. “You don’t do this. You don’t assign a rookie to a police-involved shooting.”
Beyond that, Staples added, she moved to reassign Lambert after she learned that several reports on the shooting remained incomplete more than a year after the shooting occurred.
“The reports sat there for a year-and-a-half,” Staples added. “I felt like it was a disservice to the victim in this case. [Lambert] had enough experience in the Detective Division to know better.”
Staples testimony came on the ninth day of trial in Lambert’s whistleblower lawsuit that he filed against the city in 2019. Lambert alleges that he was removed from the Detective Division — “dumped” in police parlance — after he expressed concerns about the legality of the shooting of Ricardo Hayes, an unarmed 18-year-old with autism, by off-duty CPD Sgt. Khalil Muhammad.
After the shooting, Hayes’ family filed a lawsuit against the city that was later settled for more than $2 million. The Chicago Police Board later ordered Muhammad suspended for six months for shooting Hayes.
During the first week of trial, Lambert testified that, in the hours after the shooting, he sought to protect Hayes from unwarranted scrutiny from investigators, some of whom wanted Hayes — who was recently reported missing from home — charged with a felony after he was shot by Muhammad.
“I didn’t do what they wanted me to do,” Lambert previously testified. “I did what was right and I got screwed.”
While presenting their case-in-chief, Lambert’s attorneys sought to show jurors that, because of staffing shortages, Lambert had little other choice but to assign a rookie detective to investigate Muhammad’s shooting of Hayes. They also argued that Lambert was removed from the investigation immediately after his shift ended because, when the shooting occurred, he was filling in for one of his colleagues.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected later this week. Another civil suit tied to the shooting, also filed against the city by a former CPD supervisor, is still pending in Cook County Circuit Court.