Lawsuits and investigations into 23rd District police officer Richard Fiorito have gained traction with the release of video seeming to bolster allegations that Fiorito falsifies DUI arrests.
The video, shown at an Oct. 6 press conference at the offices of the Civil Rights Center, came amid ongoing lawsuits against Fiorito alleging civil-rights violations. Twenty-one plaintiffs from the Lakeview area claim that Fiorito routinely falsified DUI reports in order to accrue the overtime pay that comes with the court testimony such cases require.
Shot from Fiorito's squad car, the video shows the officer giving a field sobriety test to a man detained on suspicion of drunk driving. Although the detainee, Michael Vaughn, had not been driving at the time of his arrest, police apprehended Vaughn and an unidentified female companion for sitting in a parked car in a public park after hours.
In the video, after Vaughn appears to pass the test, he is arrested by Fiorito and charged with driving under the influence. An accompanying police report, authored by Fiorito, offers written testimony regarding Vaughn's performance that is apparently falsifiedin other words, not supported by the videotaped evidence.
The report, for instance, says that while walking a straight line, Vaughn "can't keep balance while listening to instructions" and "loses balance while turning." In the video, Vaughn appears to have no problems passing the test, according to instructions given to him by Fiorito.
The Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) does not use roadside breathalyzers, the tests given to DUI suspects on the scene. Rather, officers administer physical activity-oriented field sobriety tests at the scene, and breathalyzers at the station.
Attorney Jon Erickson, who introduced the video at the press conference, said that Fiorito appears to be " [ dually ] motivated": in addition to his alleged financial interest in falsifying DUIs, plaintiffs say that he has a pattern of targeting LGBT people. Erickson said that Fiorito engages in physical and verbal abuse and appears to be motivated by an "anti-gay animus," using homophobic slurs such as "faggot" and "dyke."
Erickson said that in addition to the 21 plaintiffs already party to the lawsuit, he expects to add at least 20 more. The video of Vaughn's arrest was shot June 21well after the lawsuits against Fiorito had been initiated.
In response to community pressure, the Chicago Police Department in March began requiring that all squad cars Fiorito rides in be equipped with video cameras.
WLS-TV disclosed last week that there is an ongoing grand-jury investigation into Fiorito's DUI pattern; the Chicago Police Department has also said that its internal affairs unit has launched an investigation.
A CPD spokesperson said that, pending the results of the internal affairs investigation, Fiorito has been placed on administrative duty.
Although according to CPD, the beginning of Fiorito's administrative duty began Oct. 6the day of the release of the videomembers of the Lakeview community have been asking for months that the officer be removed from active duty. As Windy City Times has reported, lawsuits against Fiorito were filed as early as March; and at an Aug. 26 meeting of the 23rd District's GLBT Subcommittee, a unanimous resolution asked that Fiorito's police powers be revoked pending the conclusion of various investigations in which he is implicated.