False DUI arrests. Made up traffic violations. Excessive force. Derogatory slurs. These are just some of the allegations against Chicago police officer Richard Fiorito, who faces seven separate lawsuits claiming he targeted gays and lesbians. And there could be more to come. And was it all done in the name of billing the city for overtime pay?
Fiorito, 60, who refused comment to the Chicago Tribune, “allegedly rang up false charges so frequently against lesbian and gay drivers in the heart of the gay North Halsted entertainment district that out of his earshot, his fellow officers disparaged the charges to the people he pulled over,” claims a release from the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network.
Reports the Tribune: “In some of the lawsuits, the plaintiffs have also said excessive force was used against them, including in a suit filed in February, which alleges Fiorito grabbed Shawn Rauch by the throat in the police station, shoved him against a wall and called him a slur for a homosexual. Of the cases filed, prosecutors dismissed DUI charges against two plaintiffs, and a jury found another not guilty of DUI. In another case, a judge ruled the officer had no grounds to arrest the plaintiff for DUI, Erickson said.”
Among the allegations, says GLN:
According to several of Fiorito’s victims, the transport officer from the 23rd to the 19th Districts routinely informs defendants that “Fiorito is an overtime whore and the arrestee should get a lawyer.” No official action has been taken to curb Fiorito, 60, who is assigned to the 23rd District “Town Hall” police station at Addison and Halsted. Fiorito is among the state’s highest writers of DUI tickets and arrested over 300 people for DUI last year.
On Thursday, four more federal lawsuits were filed against Fiorito, in addition to three already filed, alleging that he targets lesbians and gays for false charges, frequently using anti-gay epithets during arrests, and occasionally uses excessive force. Attorney Jon Erickson says that as many as 10 more similar suits will be filed against Fiorito over the next six weeks.
In two separate cases of lesbians arrested by Fiorito, the lock-up officers at the Belmont and Western 19th District station made entries on the arrest report that directly contradict Officer Fiorito’s account. In one report, the lock-up officer wrote that the subject was “not under the influence of alcohol/drugs,” and that “Chicago Police Officer Neita was unable to detect the smell of alcohol coming from subject.” In another report, the lock-up officer wrote, “arrestee entered women’s lockup she seems to be fine at this time is speaking clearly.”
In two other cases, Fiorito insisted on conducting field sobriety test which test the subject’s ability to listen to and follow instructions even though the arrestees told Fiorito that they are deaf. Erickson and his fellow attorneys say Fiorito made bogus arrests to rack up overtime pay by appearing in court when he wasn’t on duty ..
“That an anti-gay cop could act on his prejudice over a period of years, without any sanctions from his superiors, speaks volumes about the city’s abject failure to protect the rights of its lesbian and gay residents,” said GLN’s Andy Thayer at a press conference today.
“This wasn’t just any police station he was operating out of. It was a station in the heart of the city’s LGBT entertainment district, supposedly the shining oasis of LGBT sensitivity training that other police stations are supposed to emulate.”