CHICAGO (CN) – A Chicago police officer claims he was demoted after winning a $1.3 million judgment against the city for its failure to arrest the former fire commissioner’s son on battery charges.
In November 2011, Joseph J. Smith responded to a call about two men who had fallen into the Chicago River near Goose Island.
When he arrived, Smith found then-Fire Capt. Mark Altman already on the scene. Smith, in full uniform, allegedly informed Altman that he was a member of the police department’s marine unit, but the captain told him to “get the fuck back.”
Smith says he ignored this command and began to search for the men who had fallen into the water, pursuant to his duties as a police officer.
This caused Altman to become enraged, according to the complaint. He allegedly threw Smith to the ground, and Smith decided to back down.
The officer filed a simple battery report against the fire captain, but unbeknownst to him at the time, the captain had powerful political connections - Altman’s father, Edward Altman Jr., headed the Chicago fire department in the 1990s.
In a 2014 excessive force trial against the city, Smith convinced a jury that Altman was not charged with battery because high ranking city officials conspired to protect him.
The jury awarded Smith $1.3 million, but that figure was slashed to under $400,000 after a judge found the award “shockingly large,” according to local news reports.
While Smith only reported minor injuries at the time, a new complaint filed Friday in Chicago federal court says he has required two surgeries, one on his neck and one on his back, related to Altman’s battery.
His second action against the city accuses the police department of demoting him when he returned to work after the jury verdict.
In addition, he says he was not paid at all between Sept. 7, 2016 and Dec. 1, 2016.
“As a result of the demotion, [Smith] received and continues to receive a reduction in his salary in the amount of, approximately $4,428.00 per year,” according to the complaint.
Smith seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged retaliation and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act. He is represented by Blake Horwitz.
The city did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
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