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Chicago police misused placards to park for free near Bears, Cubs games, probe finds

Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- Chicago police officers improperly used department-issued placards to park illegally with their personal vehicles in police station parking lots so they or their friends and relatives could attend Cubs and Bears games, an investigation by the city's government watchdog found.

Officers also regularly parked their cars in a tow-away zone along a narrow street near City Hall, creating potential safety hazards by blocking fire lanes and emergency exits, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's office reported Tuesday.

Ferguson also chided Police Department leaders in the seven-page report for not reminding officers during roll calls about a February 2018 directive prohibiting such preferential parking.

"The blatant disregard of the directive perpetuates the appearance that CPD members are exempt from the law and provide special treatment to friends and family," Ferguson wrote in the report to police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

The 2018 directive was passed after a separate probe by Ferguson's office found Police Department employees provided illegal, free parking to off-duty cops, their friends and family outside the United Center to attend Blackhawks games.

The latest investigation uncovered that the Town Hall district station, located a few blocks east of Wrigley Field, provided free parking in its lot for off-duty officers to attend Cubs games in May 2018.

 

Ferguson's office said Town Hall had an organized system with sign-in sheets that required officers to list the make and model of their vehicles and the names of their guests. Officers received parking passes on a first-come, first-served basis.

Months later, in December 2018, Ferguson's team looked on as officers and their guests used the department-issued placards to park for free in the Central District station lot to attend Bears games at Soldier Field, located just blocks away, according to the report.

The investigation also found evidence that officers parked their personal vehicles -- with the police placards in their windshields -- for free on Court Place, blocking emergency exits and fire escapes behind the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Many of the officers were assigned to work at nearby City Hall, according to the report.

The officers' cars were never ticketed or towed despite numerous emailed complaints and calls to 911 and the City Hall help desk, the investigation found.

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