CHICAGO (Reuters) - A former Chicago police officer charged with being part of a ring that falsely arrested and stole from drug dealers has detailed how the operation led to a plot to kill two colleagues, according to interview excerpts released on Friday.
The scandal in the elite Special Operations Section helped lead to a change in the Chicago police department with the appointment of a new superintendent, former FBI agent Jody Weis.
In what was described as his first interview on the matter, FBI informant Keith Herrera told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that pressure to get drug dealers and their guns off the streets led first to cutting corners and then to crime.
“Creative writing was a certain term that bosses used to make sure that the job got done,” Herrera, referring to fabrications on police reports, said in a program to be aired on Sunday.
“I didn’t just pick up a pen and just learn how to (lie). Bosses, guys that I work with who were older than I was ... It’s taught to you.”
CBS released portions of the program in advance.
As an example, Herrera said, a drug suspect might be listed in a report as refusing to surrender his gun even if he had dropped the weapon.
“Do you want that guy ... that just shot somebody to not go to jail because he threw the gun? Or do you want him to go to jail because he never let the gun out of his hand?” Herrera said. “I know what I’ve got to do.”
He said some officers obey the rules but “this isn’t Podunk, Iowa. This is the city of Chicago ... You’ve got to do a job.”
Herrera and six other former members of the Special Operations Section were charged in 2006 with robbery, kidnapping and other crimes. All have pleaded not guilty.
Herrera said he began stealing from people he arrested but decided to go to the FBI after the group’s leader proposed killing two colleagues who were threatening to testify against him.
He said the ring leader, who has been charged with plotting a murder for hire, told him in a conversation he recorded for the FBI that there would be a “paint job” and if it was done right “we’d never have to paint again.”
Weis, also interviewed on the program, said there was probably an atmosphere of breaking the law so the elite unit could cite progress and accomplishment.
“They lost their way and it saddens me,” he said. “This is horrific in my eyes.”
CBS said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley acknowledged in an interview to be aired on Sunday’s program that the scandal tainted the department but most officers were not involved.
Reporting by Michael Conlon; Editing by Andrew Stern and John O’Callaghan
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