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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Memo on cops gets spotlight

A Chicago police internal affairs investigator has testified before a federal grand jury about a 2005 memo he wrote questioning whether his bosses ignored alleged misconduct that grew into one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the Police Department, sources close to the investigation said.

The sources said the investigator, Christopher Taliaferro, testified April 17 before a grand jury probing the Special Operations Section, an elite unit that had wide latitude to search for guns and drugs in gang-infested neighborhoods.

Taliaferro's testimony indicates that federal authorities continue to investigate whether Police Department higher-ups, including internal affairs bosses, allowed SOS officers to incur hundreds of complaints of illegal searches and robberies without stopping them.

The investigator also told federal prosecutors that Debra Kirby, former head of internal affairs, contacted him and asked for a copy of the memo in March when she learned that the Tribune was working on a story about the memo, according to the sources. The Tribune disclosed the existence of Taliaferro's memo March 17.FBI officials have said Kirby, whom Police Supt. Jody Weis promoted to his chief legal counsel in March, has not been labeled a subject of the federal investigation. Kirby ran internal affairs from late 2003 until early this year, covering much of the time that SOS incurred hundreds of allegations of misconduct. Her division cleared the officers in nearly all of the cases, but the Cook County state's attorney's office later stepped in and criminally charged seven officers.

Five months before Taliaferro's June 2005 memo, Kirby transferred another internal affairs investigator, Bridget McLaughlin, out of the division days after she filed a similar memo that showed eight SOS officers were racking up complaints of illegal searches. [Mark Godsey]

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