Editorial: Supt. must teach cops new lessons
Published April 6, 2016
Sam Cirone and Denis Walsh had no business teaching other cops how to be good detectives.
It is more than a little disturbing that the Chicago Police Department couldn’t see that, allowing Sgt. Cirone and Lt. Walsh to teach detective classes for years even as they were being investigated for possible obstruction of justice in one of the most politically sensitive homicide cases in Chicago history.
You have to wonder how interim Supt. Eddie Johnson ever hopes to reform a police department that could so blatantly turn a blind eye to ethical common sense. You have to wonder why Johnson’s first deputy, John Escalante, allowed the two officers to teach. Escalante headed the detective bureau, which oversaw the training sessions, at the time Cirone and Walsh were instructors.
What exactly did they teach? How to make stuff up in a police report? How to take department files home and stash them away?
If Johnson, in cooperation with an ongoing federal civil rights review, is sincere about changing the department’s ethically-challenged culture, he will have to dig deep. And he had better not worry much about being popular.
Cirone and Walsh first teamed up as “class presenters” in a detective training session on Jan. 9, 2013. This was about a month after Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, finally was indicted for involuntary manslaughter in the 2004 death of 21-year-old David Koschman. At the time Cirone and Walsh began teaching, a special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, was digging into why the police — including the two officers — had failed for years to charge Koschman.
Cirone and Walsh continued to teach even after Webb, having completed his report, said he had considered charging them with obstructing justice or official misconduct but decided he didn’t have enough evidence to convict. But in his report, Webb cited Walsh four times as being involved with missing files. And he pointed to Cirone’s involvement in the writing and approval of a police report that included an apparently fabricated quote from Koschman — “F— you! I’ll kick your ass!”
Only after City Hall Inspector General Joe Ferguson, in September 2014, began looking into whether any cops in the Koschman case should be disciplined did Cirone and Walsh stop teaching, recusing themselves from the rotation of instructors. But not completely. They taught one more class on March 27, 2015.
Walsh retired from the police department in February rather than be fired. Cirone is fighting a one-year suspension.
We can’t help but wonder whether their influence lives on, for better and worse, through the detectives they taught.