Protests against Fiorito continue
Though a Chicago police officer accused of targeting and falsely arresting gay and lesbian drivers may no longer be patrolling the streets, efforts to further castigate Richard Fiorito have certainly not died down.
Activists from the Gay Liberation Network protested Fiorito’s continued employment at its monthly board meeting on Thursday. Members said they hope to see Fiorito criminally charged, vigorously prosecuted and fired.
Andy Thayer, co-founder of the GLN, recognized progress has been made in building their case against Fiorito, including the officer’s relegation to desk duty last month and Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez’s announcement last week his testimony will not be used in court against motorists he charged. Thayer affirmed, however, his organization’s efforts will not stop until demands are met.
"We know that we can’t rest. In order for there to continue to be progress against Fiorito, we have to continually muster a real campaign to achieve results," Thayer told EDGE. "We need to keep turning up the heat and stepping up our game because it’s not a matter of letting the facts speak for themselves. They have spoken and it’s not enough."
The claims have indeed mounted against Fiorito since he first faced lawsuits nearly eight months ago from four Chicago residents represented by attorney Jon Erickson. They claim the police veteran falsely arrested them for DUI charges, perjured himself in court and even verbally harassed and used excessive force against them. Since then, the number of lawsuits against the embroiled officer has swelled to 37, while 20 of the DUI charges Fiorito made have been ordered dropped.
In response to the continued allegations, the CPD declined to comment beyond stating it has placed the officer on administrative duty pending the outcome of its investigation. Fiorito’s attorney has avoided practically all media requests since denied all the allegations to ABC 7 last month.
The campaign against Fiorito took significant wind in recent months when mainstream press outlets broadcasted video footage from Fiorito’s car that lent further credence to his accusers’ allegations. The onslaught of mainstream news coverage, combined with a CPD community sub-committee’s resolution and a public protest in the streets of the officer’s beat last month, are largely responsible for continued interest.
Fiorito’s deterrents, however, contest the fact Fiorito still receives a paycheck while the internal investigation into the charges continues and he remains uncharged. During his organization’s protest of the CPD board meeting last week, he stood before department superintendent Jody Weis with over a dozen of the lawsuits in hand. After asserting "plenty of objective evidence" had been presented as grounds to charge the officer, Thayer slammed the suits on the floor.
At the meeting, Thayer also spoke against the view of Fiorito as simply a "bad apple in an otherwise good barrel." He points to the CPD’s slow-moving investigation process of the case and the fact none of his fellow officers have spoken out on the charges as evidence the rot Thayer and others describe may have spread. Thayer added he feels the CPD’s reluctance to prosecute its own has a strong historical root, as evidenced previously by Commander Jon Burge’s decades-long torture ring.
"In the state of Illinois, it is a crime to observe a criminal activity and not at least report it," Thayer said. "Fiorito has clearly effected others and made a laughing-stock of the notion that the Town Hall district office stands against anti-gay discrimination. [The CPD] has failed to take effective action with this officer."
Thayer did not comment on his organization’s specific next steps in its campaign against Fiorito.