CHICAGO — More than 16 years after he was first accused of misconduct, the Chicago Police Board on Thursday fired an officer who was found to have submitted false reports while working as part of the CPD’s scandal-plagued Special Operations Section.
Board members voted 5-1 in favor of firing officer Thomas Sherry, who was assigned to desk duty for more than a decade and placed on no-pay status in 2021. One of the board members recused herself from the vote.
Sherry’s attorney, Paul Geiger, said he plans to appeal the board’s decision in Cook County Circuit Court in the next 35 days.
“This is an individual who was wrongly arrested, who was wrongly kept in purgatory by the police department for over 10 years,” Sherry’s attorney, Paul Geiger, said after the police board’s decision was announced.
“There’s no victim,” Geiger added. “There’s no civilian that came in and said this police officer Tom Sherry did me wrong. There’s no police officer that said Tom Sherry did me wrong.”
The administrative charges against Sherry alleged that he was part of an illegal search of an apartment on the Northwest Side in July 2004 that he later lied about when he submitted false paperwork.
Testifying in his evidentiary hearing earlier this year, Sherry said: “I absolutely did not participate in the search of the apartment.”
Sherry, who joined the CPD in 1997, also maintained that someone other than himself signed his name to various forms that the city was using as evidence.
Katherine Hill, an attorney who represented the CPD in the hearing, said that Sherry “knew exactly what was happening and he knew exactly what he was doing when he authored a false inventory report.”
The Special Operations Section, once an elite unit in the CPD, was disbanded in 2007 after it was revealed that several officers used the unit as a robbery crew, committing home invasions and stealing thousands of dollars from suspects and civilians alike.
Thirteen SOS officers faced criminal charges as part of the scandal, two of whom eventually went to prison: Keith Herrera and Jerome Finnigan, the leader of the crew.
Finnigan was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison in 2011 after he pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire plot and tax evasion. Federal prison records show he was released from custody more than three years ago.
Sherry was one of 13 SOS officers who faced criminal charges in the scandal, and the allegations against Sherry were related to the same raid that served as the basis for his police board charges.
Eleven SOS officers ultimately pleaded guilty. In 2009, three years after the charges were filed and he was suspended without pay, the criminal allegations against Sherry and one other officer were dropped.
News reports from that time said the decision to drop the charges was made, in part, because of flawed witness identifications of the two officers. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the decision was made in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was probing corruption within the CPD. Geiger said federal prosecutors even wrote a letter to Sherry, informing him that he was “not a target” of their investigation.
Sherry filed a lawsuit against the city in 2018, alleging that the lack of a timely investigation was a violation of his rights. A federal judge threw out the lawsuit last year, a few months after Sherry’s police board charges were filed.
Speaking to WGN last year, Sherry said he believed the police board charges against him were the CPD’s way of punishing him for filing the lawsuit.
“I think it was done out of malice,” Sherry said. “I think it was done out of spite because I wouldn’t sit quietly and go off into the night.”