Police oversight investigators recommended last year that a Chicago police officer who worked under former Sgt. Ronald Watts — who went to prison for corruption — should be fired for falsifying reports while working for the disgraced ex-sergeant, according to a report released Thursday by a civil rights law firm.
The 33-page report was made public by the firm Loevy & Loevy after two of Watts’ victims filed a lawsuit last year against the city to force the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to disclose it.
In March 2021, COPA recommended that Alvin Jones should be fired for falsifying reports against Ben Baker and Clarissa Glenn after arresting them in December 2005.
“Jones enjoyed great official authority and abused it brazenly for his own gain. He violated his oath, public duty, multiple Department Orders, and the trust of other officers and the community he was sworn to protect,” the report said.
Watts and Jones in 2005 “demanded that Baker pay them to ‘protect’ his business” and when Baker refused they arrested him, the report said. Baker and Glenn gave statements saying the arrests were in retaliation for Baker’s refusal to pay the officers, Baker’s success on a motion to suppress evidence from earlier arrests by Watts’ team and Baker and Glenn’s reporting Watts’ and his team’s misconduct, the report said.
Baker and Glenn told COPA investigators that on the morning of Dec. 11, 2005, after Baker had repeatedly refused to pay the officers, Glenn was giving Baker a ride home when they were pulled over by a marked police car. A black, unmarked police car that Watts and Jones were in followed. The officers searched Glenn’s SUV, finding nothing, the report said.
“Glenn saw Watts pull what appeared to be narcotics from his jacket sleeve. Watts then claimed to have found the narcotics in the SUV, but Baker knew there were no narcotics in the vehicle and that Watts and Jones had already searched the area thoroughly but found nothing,” the report said.
The investigation found that Watts and Jones falsified arrest and case reports and that Jones testified falsely under oath in court hearings.
“When COPA investigators later questioned him about events related to the arrests, he continued to provide false information,” the report said. “When confronted with these fabrications, Jones admitted to certain falsehoods and referred to his underlying conduct as an ‘egregious error.’”
Baker and Glenn were exonerated in 2016 and received a certificate of innocence, and Baker was released from prison. COPA submitted the report to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown in March 2021 but the city refused to release it to the public.
The city had refused to make the report public even after the investigation by COPA and its predecessor agency, the Independent Police Review Authority, dragged on for years.
COPA typically doesn’t release the findings of their investigations until they’re reviewed by the Chicago police superintendent, who then decides whether disciplinary charges should be filed. In Jones’ case, neither Chicago police Superintendent David Brown nor the city’s Law Department ever disclosed whether Jones would face disciplinary charges, so the case sat in limbo and the report was never released.
Jones, meanwhile, was relieved of his police powers for several years due to the investigation and ended up retiring at the rank of sergeant from the department in May. Neither Chicago police nor the city’s Law Department could be reached for comment Thursday night.
Last year, two of Watts’ victims filed a lawsuit under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act for the release of the COPA report. In July, a Cook County judge ordered city officials to disclose it by Tuesday and the city did not comply, according to Loevy & Loevy, which represented the Watts victims in the lawsuit. After they sought to have a judge hold the city in contempt of court, the city released the report on Thursday, the law firm said.
Watts and his team of tactical officers have been accused of orchestrating a decade of terror at the now-razed Ida B. Wells public housing complex on the South Side, systematically forcing residents and drug dealers alike to pay a “protection” tax and putting bogus cases on those who refused to do so.
When Watts was finally caught, in 2012, it was on relatively minor federal charges of shaking down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI agent. Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed both pleaded guilty. Watts received 22 months in prison and Mohammed was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
Baker, 43, was arrested in March 2005 after Watts and his crew nabbed him for allegedly dealing drugs out of a building in the Ida B. Wells complex, court records show. At trial, Officer Douglas Nichols testified he saw Baker with bags of drugs packaged for distribution and tried to detain him, but Baker fled down a stairwell. Another member of Watts’ team, Officer Robert Gonzalez, testified he arrested Baker in the lobby and that during a search they found heroin, crack cocaine and about $800 cash in his pocket.
Baker allegedly told the officers, “Them blows (the heroin) are mine but those rocks (the cocaine) ain’t,” according to court records.
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Baker testified in a bench trial before Judge Michael Toomin that Watts and his crew had planted the drugs on him. Watts had already tried to pin a drug case on him a year earlier after Baker had refused to pay a $1,000 bribe to the officers in exchange for their protection, he alleged.
After he beat those charges, Baker said, he complained to Jones, one of Watts’ underlings, who told him it was “part of the game.”
“You win some, you lose some,” Baker said Jones told him. “Next time we get you, it will stick.”
Watts, Jones and Gonzalez all denied wrongdoing at Baker’s trial and testified that Baker was lying, according to court records. Toomin found Baker guilty on both counts and initially sentenced him to 18 years in prison but later reduced the term to 14 years.
In a December 2015 court filing, a lawyer representing Baker pointed to FBI reports showing that at the time of Baker’s trial, Watts was already the target of an ongoing joint investigation by the FBI and Chicago police internal affairs investigators into allegations of corruption nearly identical to those made by Baker.
One FBI report from September 2004 showed that an informant had told federal agents that Watts and another officer were routinely shaking down drug dealers for thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for police protection at the housing complex.
In 2016, Baker was exonerated in his case and released from prison. Since then, Watts and his crew of officers were tied to some 250 drug convictions that were overturned, according to Loevy & Loevy, and there’s over 80 lawsuits pending against the city relating to these wrongful convictions.