Are some police officers skipping court dates due to bad arrests?

There are a lot of reasons why police officers miss court dates. Often, it's an innocent explanation.

But as Dane Placko investigates, a review of records by FOX 32 and the Better Government Association suggests that sometimes cops miss court dates because they want the case to disappear.

Josh Garrett and his wife, Diana Diaz, were riding their bikes home after a concert in June of last year when they were stopped at 13th and Ashland by two Chicago police officers.

"He asked why I was riding in the road, and I think my quick response was 'well, where do you expect me to ride?'" Garrett said.

When it became clear things weren't going well, Garrett and Diaz pulled out a cellphone and began recording the encounter, which only made the police angrier.

The couple was charged with obstructing traffic, resisting arrest and Garrett was charged with assaulting an officer.

They both spent the night in the 12th District lockup.

But when they went to court next month, the officers never showed and the case was dropped.

They filed a civil suit against the police department for false arrest and excessive force, and the city quickly settled for $30,000 dollars.

Their attorney said he believes police failed to show because they knew they had made a bad arrest.

"The last thing they want to do is get into trouble where they lose their job, so that's why it's definitely a tactic to avoid that trial, that proceeding and that commitment to the facts about what happened," said attorney Christopher Smith.

FOX 32 and the Better Government Association learned of the couple's story while researching an investigation into officers missing court dates. We wanted to know how often it happens and why.

After filing a freedom of information request, police provided FOX 32 with a one page response saying that since 2013, there have been more than three thousand instances where officers were required to appear, but failed to do so.

They offered no explanation why.

"This is a breakdown in transparency. It's a breakdown in responsibility. It's a breakdown in accountability," said Andy Shaw of the BGA.

Shaw said if indeed cops aren't showing up when they make a bad arrest, it's a waste of time and money.

"It winds up costing us money and wasting our time and undermining the judicial process, and it's unfair to those arrested, it's unfair to the victims and it's unfair to the taxpayers," he said.

While there are any number of reasons why cops miss court dates, attorneys that FOX 32 talked to say they're familiar with dozens of examples of officers failing to show after making a questionable arrest.

"They punched me in my face about three times," said Devonte James.

James suffered a broken jaw after an encounter with officers at his grandmother's home on the West Side in 2013.

James was charged with resisting arrest, but that was dropped when the officers failed to appear in court.

He's now suing the city for damages.

"I was in tears because it was like... you did something to me. Now you don't want to show up," James said.

"Our feeling is that when an officer knows there's going to be a problem on a case, when an officer has a sense of his own liability and concern, he's not going to want to make an issue of it," said James' attorney Jeff Granich.

Perhaps that's what happened in the case of the bike-riding couple, who heard the arresting officer say this as he was driving them to the lockup:

"I'll go to court on these clowns."

Garrett added, "I think if you're going to put somebody through that for the night, you owe it to them to show up and be held accountable for it."

The BGA is now suing the police department for access to the database it keeps regarding officers missing court appearances. The officers and city officials either couldn't be reached or refused to comment on our story.