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Journalist Confronts CPD’s ‘Code of Silence’

Last year, Chicago reporter Jamie Kalven’s work in exposing details of the fatal police-involved shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald rocked the city.

As Kalven pursued the case of a Black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white police officer, he worked with a former police officer to further expose the Chicago Police Department’s “code of silence.” Kalven credits those interviews with informing his efforts in the McDonald case.

Now, the journalist highly credited for bringing McDonald’s case to light has published a four-part series on his interviews with Shannon Spalding, one of two officers who sued the city over alleged retaliation they suffered for crossing the thin blue line. Their lawsuit just about forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into testifying in federal court before settling the case for $2 million.

“I call it Operation Smoke and Mirrors,” Spalding told Kalven, according to the Chicago SunTimes. “If four bosses in the department say it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.”

A CPD spokesman did not comment on Kalven’s series. A team formed by the Justice Department is currently conducting a pattern or practice investigation of the department.

According to Kalven, the city’s police reform efforts in light of McDonald’s death will be limited if it doesn’t directly address the code of silence.

“We have to take this on,” Kalven said.

Spalding and police officer Daniel Echevarria claimed they were told to ignore evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Sgt. Ronald Watts by their superiors in 2007. Instead, they said they reported it to the FBI on personal time.

Lawyers representing the two officers say Internal Affairs Chief Juan Rivera blew their cover. As a result, the officers were branded “rat motherf*****s” and told that their bosses didn’t want them in their units.

Spalding was found the have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the experience, according to Kalven’s reporting. She turned in her badge and gun in June 2014.

“I’m grieving a loss like a death,” Spalding told Kalven. “When they took my badge, they took my soul.”

For more on Kalven’s series, click here.