At a meeting of the Chicago Police Department’s 23rd District GLBT Subcommittee on Aug. 26, members voted overwhelmingly to urge the department to relieve embattled officer Richard Fiorito from his duties until the resolution of a joint lawsuit nearly 20 plaintiffs filed against him.
The suit, originally reported by EDGE in April, alleges Fiorito has repeatedly violated the civil rights of District 23 residents over the course of the last six years. The allegations include routine targeting of LGBT individuals and the falsification of DUI arrests in the interest of receiving both overtime pay and community accolades. And the lawsuit even contains allegations of excessive force and verbal harassment.
Despite the allegations and growing criticism, CPD spokesman Kevin Kilmer confirmed to EDGE Fiorito remains on the streets in the 23rd District while the department and the Independent Police Review Authority investigate the charges. He refused to comment on the sub-committee’s resolution.
"We do not comment on pending lawsuits," Kilmer said. "All I can tell you at this time is that Fiorito is still a member of the Chicago Police Department and he is on full duty."
The resolution calls upon the Cook County State Attorney’s Office to file criminal charges against Fiorito for what it describes as perjury, false arrest and imprisonment based on "the evidence of apparent criminal behavior."
Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, was present at the meeting. One of the officers who was present said it drew an unprecedented crowd in comparison to most subcommittee meetings. Thayer was among those who supported the resolution. And he feels the burden of proof-probable cause-for the punishments it suggests has been met.
"To say there is not probable cause for [his arrest] is absurd," Thayer said. "The people at the meeting were irritated because the officers were stonewalling the idea of having a resolution. When it passed, [the officers] left as fast as they could."
Debate on the resolution was to continue the following evening at a district advisory meeting, but the format of the meeting was changed to strictly follow an agenda and leave the floor closed to residents’ comments related to the Fiorito charges.
Thayer contends the change in agenda was a further effort by the CPD to lessen growing local anger against the allegedly anti-gay officer. He added he hopes to see continued action on the issue.
"In my experience, I’ve learned that the CPD only ceases to protect their own, even when there are egregious charges, when there is a great deal of public pressure," Thayer said. "We’ll need to continue generating that pressure because, in this city, it doesn’t matter how many facts you have on your side. Facts alone will not get you justice. It takes the community mobilizing and demanding that an anti-gay officer not operate in the heart of the LGBT entertainment district to achieve justice."