A Chicago Police Department photo, released to the public and at the center of an ex-police officer’s appeal to get his job back, shows two white Chicago cops posing with their African American “trophy hunt” kill. Crouching over the black man, identified as an “unidentified drug suspect,” the officers are seen holding deer antlers on the man’s head and lifting his face up to the camera.
The photo, taken somewhere between 1999 and 2003 at a police station on Chicago’s West Side, resulted in one officer losing his job. The other – a crooked cop – is serving time in prison. The fired Chicago cop now is appealing his dismissal to the city; the Cook County judge overseeing the hearing refused to seal the photo.
Writes the Chicago Sun-Times: “It’s a racially charged photo the Chicago Police Department didn’t want the public to see: two white cops posing with rifles as they stand over a black man lying on his belly with deer antlers on his head. But a Cook County judge has refused to keep secret the shocking image of former Officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan kneeling with what the police department says is an unidentified African-American drug suspect.”
Identified in the Polaroid are Timothy McDermott (right) and Jerome Finnigan (left).
Finnigan is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for “leading a crew of rogue cops in robberies, home invasions and other crimes,” writes the Sun-Times. McDermott was fired from the police department last year in a 5 to 4 vote by the police board. He is appealing to get his job back.
According to a previous statement from McDermott, they busted the black man for “having 20 bags of weed.” The ex-cop said the man was “willing” to pose for the photo, which was taken in the “spur of the moment.” Because the man did not have a criminal background, McDermott said they let him walk.
Now that the photo was made public, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy released a strongly worded statement:
“This picture is disgusting, and the despicable actions of these two former officers have no place in our police department or in our society. As the Superintendent of this department, and as a resident of our city, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior, and that is why neither of these officers works for CPD today. I fired one of the officers, and would have fired the other if he hadn’t already been fired by the time I found out about the picture. Which is why I fired the officer involved as soon as I learned about photo. Our residents deserve better than this, as do the thousands of good men and women in this department.”
Adds the Sun-Times: “The photo comes to light as conflicts in recent months between white police officers and black suspects have gained national attention and sparked national protests, and as McCarthy himself has started a listening tour throughout Chicago to improve the frayed relations between police and the black and Hispanic communities.”
McDermott issued a statement about the photo and his recollection of the event:
“I do remember an incident where I took a photo with Finnigan and it appears that this is it,” McDermott said, according to a transcript from his interview. “Finnigan called me over, told me to get in the picture and I sat in the picture. The photo was taken, and I went back to the business I was doing that day… I am embarrassed by my participation in this photograph. I made a mistake as a young, impressionable police officer who was trying to fit in.”
McDermott’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, went to extremes to illustrate the lunacy of his client’s firing.
“What’s to say this black individual wasn’t performing at a Christmas pageant in the district and was dressed as a reindeer and had taken the reindeer suit off? Again, I don’t mean to make preposterous arguments, but the charges in this case, they warrant that,” Herbert said.
To show the easily misunderstood nature of the photo and the lack of context surrounding it, Herbert even compared it to an episode of “Seinfeld” where Jerry’s girlfriend thinks she spotted him picking his nose.
What are your thoughts? Should this officer have been fired by the Chicago Police Department over this photo?