A lieutenant with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the City of Chicago, alleging that he was retaliated against for raising concerns about and refusing to engage in an illegal quota-based policing system that his supervisor urged officers to use.
Franklin Paz has served as a police officer in Chicago since 1999. In 2020, he was promoted from CPD sergeant to lieutenant, according to the January 15, 2021 lawsuit. In July of 2020, Paz “was assigned by superiors to lead one of the units of the CPD’s newly-created ‘community safety team,’ or CST.” The CST was an initiative by Chicago police superintendent David Brown to curb the “increase of violent crimes in Chicago,” the lawsuit states.
As a supervisor in the CST, Paz supervised 48 police officers and 6 sergeants: each lieutenant working in the CST reports to Deputy Chief Michael Barz. The lawsuit states that “As soon as Barz took command of the CST, he began to urge Paz and the other lieutenants to increase the number of traffic stops, arrests, citations, and other police contacts that the officers on the teams made during their shifts.” Allegedly, Barz “instructed the supervisors of the CST that he expected the officers assigned there to generate specific amounts of police activity per shift they worked.” He also “demanded certain numbers relating to police activity, regardless of the criminal or traffic activity justifying police intervention,” according to the lawsuit.
Illinois law “prohibits the City of Chicago and other municipalities from requiring police officers to issue a certain number of citations within a designated period of time,” but according to the lawsuit, Barz praised the CST supervisors “when a unit engaged in a high number of stops” and expressed only wanting to assign officers to the CST who had a work history of numerous police actions.
When Barz became in charge of the CST, the lawsuit claims that he criticized the platoon, or group, that Paz was in charge of, “falsely accusing those officers and their supervisors of not generating enough ‘activity.’” At one point, he allegedly “instructed Paz that the officers in his platoon should be bringing in a minimum of 10 “blue cards,” per day (blue cards being “a document created by officers who detain an individual but do not formally issue a traffic citation or place the person under arrest”). The lawsuit states that Barz would threaten to remove the officers in the unit if their numbers were not to his satisfaction. According to the lawsuit, Paz tried to explain to Barz that his alleged insistence on illegal quotas was “effectively requiring officers to engage in unlawful profiling, seizures of people that were not justified by probable cause, and violations of the civil rights of persons they encountered.”
On September 23, 2020, Paz “sent an email to Deputy Superintendent Barb West requesting a meeting with her to report on Barz’s illegal demands,” but never received a response. West retired days after Paz sent his email. Then on September 25, Paz sent an email directly to Barz which detailed his concerns about the quotas Barz demanded the CST officers meet and noted the federal consent decree that Chicago police officers must follow. “I can not in good faith and will not mandate Officers to bring in ‘x’ amount of numbers and activity. This is the exact reason we are in a consent decree as we speak,” Paz wrote in the email. Paz also filed a complaint with the City of Chicago Office of the Inspector General about Barz’s actions and provided them with information about the alleged misconduct.
One day after Paz sent the second email, Barz “appeared at several roll calls for the CST” and in Paz’s absence from the roll calls told officers that Paz “was the problem with their teams’ performance,” the lawsuit claims. Barz also allegedly made “false derogatory comments about Paz to his team members” and said “he did not care if people got shot in their areas of deployment because ‘if people get shot in the ghetto and if it happens, it happens.’”
In the aftermath of Paz’s September 25 email, the lawsuit states that Barz made a decision to remove Paz from his lieutenant position in the CST, but only communicated it to higher-ups in the CPD: Paz first learned of this change on October 2, 2020, via text message from a CPD commander. Paz was then assigned to work a midnight shift and was never given a reason for his removal from the CST. The lawsuit explains that a personnel change like this one, from a leadership role in a special force to a patrol position, is considered in the CPD “to be an adverse and negative personnel action.”
The lawsuit alleges that Paz’s reassignment was an act of whistleblower retaliation, illegal under the Illinois Whistleblower Act. According to the lawsuit, Paz “has suffered and continues to suffer extreme humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, and stress” and was hospitalized due to the stress he endured. The lawsuit also alleges Barz is still urging officers in the CST to meet illegal quotas. As of the lawsuit’s filing, Paz is still in the midnight shift position.
Paz is seeking “a judgment against [the City of Chicago] in excess of $50,000.00” — he is also seeing reinstatement to his former lieutenant role in the CST or another position he approves of, “compensation for litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorneys’ fees,” and compensation for any other damages like “the loss of income and benefits.”
“The bottom line is this sort of number driven policing…ends up actually eroding the relationship between the Community and the police,” Paz’s attorney, Torri Hamilton, told CBS 2 in a January 19 article. “And here we have 1,000 police officers that are being ordered to do it.”
“Instead of focusing on the community safety, the new unit instead has become dedicated to making pointless traffic stops, often with no basis, so that Barz and the CPD can brag about their ‘activity,’” read a statement from Hamilton and Paz’s second attorney Thomas Needham.
According to January 19 article from WTTW, a Chicago-centered news outlet, a spokesperson from CPD said that “the department does not comment on pending litigation.” A spokesperson for Chicago’s Law Department also declined to comment, “saying they are still reviewing the suit.”
“Despite the professional and personal stresses and challenges to come forth, today I am doing what is right and what is necessary to highlight an illegal policing practice that officers are being ordered to participate in,” Paz said in a statement through his attorney, according to the CBS 2 article.
Read more WNN reporting on law enforcement whistleblowers here.