Two former officers from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) are embroiled in controversy after a photo surfaced of them posing with rifles over a black man lying on his stomach with deer antlers on his head.
In the racially-charged photo, officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan, both white, are armed with rifles and kneel over an unidentified African-American drug suspect who they positioned to resemble hunters' bounty.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the photo was taken at a police station on Chicago's West Side between 1999 and 2003, and came to the attention of the CPD after federal prosecutors gave the photo to police in 2013. At the time, Finnigan had been sentenced to prison for allegedly shaking down drug dealers with other cops and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, WLS reported. He was also convicted of plotting to kill another officer.
For several years, the department kept the photo from being made public, claiming they wanted to protect the privacy of the suspect shown in it. However, in March, a judge refused to hide the picture, and the Sun-Times obtained the image in the court file.
The Washington Post reports that while McDermott was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing, he was fired from the police department last year based on the photo. At the time, the Chicago Police Board voted 5-4 to fired McDermott, with dissenting board members arguing that a suspension was a more appropriate punishment.
McDermott has sued to reverse his dismal and described the incident as a "youthful indiscretion."
"I was asked to join the photo and I did so without exercising proper judgment," McDermott said according to the transcript. "I made a mistake as a young impressionable police officer who was trying to fit in. I wish I could go back and change this split second decision."
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel emphasized that the actions of McDermott and Finnigan are not a proper reflection of the city of Chicago or its police department.
"Let me be clear: That photo does not represent the values of the city of Chicago that we all share in common," Emanuel told reporters Tuesday. "It doesn't represent the values of the Police Department. And as the mayor of the city of Chicago to that individual, 'Good riddance.' "
Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the city's top police officer, called the photo "disgusting" and stated that he had fired the offending policemen due to their conduct.
"As the superintendent of this department, and as a resident of our city, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior, and that is why neither of these officers works for CPD today," McCarthy told the Sun-Times. "I fired one of the officers and would have fired the other if he hadn't already been fired by the time I found out about the picture."
The photo, which has sparked widespread outrage, was published in the wake of heightened tension between African-Americans and white police officers. Earlier this month, Chicago officials agreed to pay $5.5 million in reparations to victims of torture inflicted by city detectives under a police commander, many of whom were African American.