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Chicago's finest under fire for brutality

  • Story Highlights
  • Lawyer: From '02-'04, only 18 of 10,000 complaints got "meaningful" results
  • One victim says officer attacked when she refused to sign blank incident report
  • Victim's lawyer: Chicago Police Dept. "doesn't do a good job of policing itself"
  • Chicago police refused CNN's interview requests
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From Randi Kaye and Ismael Estrada
CNN
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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Robin Petrovic, a college English teacher, was out dancing at a popular Chicago nightclub, the "Funky Buddha Lounge," when she got into an altercation with the bouncer and called police for help.

Petrovic

Robin Petrovic alleges that she sustained extensive injuries after a Chicago cop beat her outside a popular nightclub.

But according to Petrovic, the officer who showed up -- James Chevas, a 12-year veteran -- turned on her when she refused to sign a blank incident report and tried to write down his badge number.

"He picked me up and threw me face down into the ground. And since my hands were handcuffed behind my back, I couldn't break my fall at all, so I just landed on my face," she told CNN.

Petrovic is one of thousands of ordinary people who every year accuse Chicago police of abuse. Few complaints result in disciplinary action. Video Woman alleges police brutality »

"The Chicago Police Department doesn't do a good job of policing itself," Jon Loevy, Petrovic's attorney, said. "For the small minority of police officers, who are inclined to violence for whatever reason and abuses, there is no check, there is no deterrence, because the city does not investigate and punish police abuses."

Between 2002 and 2004, for example, more than 10,000 complaints -- many of them involving brutality and assault -- were filed against Chicago police officers.

Yet only 18 of them resulted in any meaningful disciplinary action, according to Craig Futterman, a lawyer who uncovered these statistics while researching a client's claim.

Futterman's client, Diane Bond, sued the city of Chicago and a handful of officers, accusing them of beating and sexually abusing her.

"[The officer] took me in the bathroom, locked the door, had me unfasten my bra, then he had me shake my bra, he had me pull my pants down stick my hand in my panties and do like this while he looked on," Bond said.

The city settled Bond's case for $150,000, but never admitted any wrongdoing. The officers denied ever meeting her. None of them was reprimanded. In fact, two have been promoted.

For years, community activists have accused the Office of Professional Standards -- the investigative unit within the Chicago Police Department that examines brutality complaints -- of poor oversight.

In July, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed Ilana Rosenzweig to run the office and also took direct control of it.

In an interview with CNN, Daley said Chicago is not unique in its struggle against police brutality.

"There is police brutality throughout the country. It's not just an exception to Chicago, and we take appropriate steps to thoroughly investigate it," Daley said.

Daley, meanwhile, won a temporary court order to keep the names of the alleged worst offenders secret.

"Because it's only [an] investigation, it's appropriate and you should not name them publicly," Daley told CNN. "Because they are out there doing their job, there's complaints and there will be complaints."

After her run-in with Chevas outside the Funky Buddha Lounge, Petrovic filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards, claiming extensive injuries.

"I had two black eyes. One of my ears was completely black and blue," she told CNN. "My face was swollen. I was bruised under my chin. I had bruising on my arms and my legs, lacerations all over my back, and bruising in my genital area."

Chevas denied Petrovic's claims and said she attacked him. Petrovic was arrested that night and charged with aggravated battery, but the charges were later dropped.

In his 12 years with the Chicago Police Department, Chevas had never been disciplined, despite nearly 50 brutality complaints against him, according to Petrovic's lawyer.

Chevas wound up resigning from the force after being caught on tape using credit cards stolen from a suspect in police custody. He was sentenced to 30 months probation.

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Six months after filing her complaint with the standards office, Petrovic received a letter saying the office had conducted a "thorough investigation" and determined her complaint was "unfounded." Now, Petrovic is suing Chevas and the city of Chicago over the incident.

"In a properly functioning police department, there would be more of a system of discipline, more of a system of punishment, so that an officer would know that if someone did something wrong someone would actually care," Loevy said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jason White contributed to this report.

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