“The color of your skin is your sin,” the police commander told one of the plaintiffs when asked why he was being demoted and the black officers were not, according to the suit.
Eleven Chicago police officers are suing the city over claims they were demoted from the mayor’s security detail when Rahm Emanuel took office because they weren’t politically connected and aren’t black.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Illinois, contains explosive accusations that the officers had their civil rights violated after Emanuel took office last year.
The officers charge that shortly after Emanuel was elected in February 2011, the city government began to bring people associated with the Emanuel campaign on board — both those who volunteered on Emanuel’s security detail during the campaign and others who were “politically involved.”
Within a few weeks, the suit says, most of the defendants were removed from the detail “without just cause or any explanation” and were demoted in title, rank and pay. Meanwhile, they allegedly were replaced by Emanuel’s former security detail volunteers and others with a “political connection.”
The demoted officers were sent to work in city police districts. Three of the 11 briefly retained their title, going to work on the detail for former mayor Richard M. Daley, but were soon removed from that detail as well and reassigned.
The suit claims the officers were removed in violation of an order known as the Shakman Decree, which prohibits political considerations in hiring. Further, the officers claim race was a factor, as the black officers on the mayor’s security detail kept their jobs during the administration change.
In 1969, one man made his stand against the Chicago political machine. Michael Shakman, an independent candidate for delegate to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, battled against one of the most enduring traditions in Chicago’s politics: political patronage, or the practice of hiring and firing government workers on the basis of political loyalty. With many behind-the-scenes supporters, Shakman’s years of determination resulted in what became known as the “Shakman decrees.”
Commander Brian Thompson, a defendant in the suit who is black, allegedly told one of the officers “the color of your skin is your sin” when the officer asked about the discrepancy.
The officers are seeking to be reinstated with their old title and salary, and are seeking unspecified damages.