CPD lieutenant claims promotion discrimination over race, Van Dyke comments: suit

A Chicago Police Department lieutenant filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming he was passed over for promotions because of his race and because of comments he made about the investigation into former CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke’s fatal 2016 shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Lt. Osvaldo Valdez filed the suit Wednesday afternoon in Cook County Circuit Court, naming the city, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson as defendants.

In the suit, Valdez claims the city violated the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution as well as parts of the Illinois Constitution by denying his promotion to the rank of captain or higher because he is Latino and because of statements he made about the Van Dyke investigation.

In a meeting with Johnson to discuss the investigation into Van Dyke’s conduct on the night he shot McDonald, Valdez told Johnson that Van Dyke “was trained by the City of Chicago Police Department in such a way that such a shooting was bound to occur,” the suit states. During the same meeting, Valdez also argued that all videos of the shooting should be released.

In July 2016, Valdez “provided a statement pursuant to legal process in which he stated that the training provided by the CPD was the primary cause of death of Laquan McDonald,” according to the suit.

In addition to detailing Valdez’s statements about the investigation, the suit also alleges a cover-up on the part of the city and the Police Department following McDonald’s death.

“In the aftermath of that tragic killing, an investigation ensued which involved the controversial cover up of police misconduct of Officer Van Dyke, members of the Chicago Police Department, and Defendants Johnson and Emanuel,” the suit states.

Valdez contends in the suit that he is “highly qualified” for promotion and has, since 2015, “been performing the duties of a Commander in spite of being repeatedly denied the opportunity for promotion.”

He took a captains training course for lieutenants in May of this year but was passed over for promotions on three occasions in June and October, according to the suit. Five other candidates, all of them non-Hispanic and two of them white, were promoted instead of Valdez, according to the suit.

Valdez alleges he “was passed over for promotion each time because of his race and nationality and for speaking out on a matter of public concern” and that he “has been systematically denied such opportunities for promotion although more qualified on every known metric of performance.”

The five-count suit argues that the defendants violated Valdez’s rights to free speech and protections against racial discrimination. It is seeking an unspecified amount in punitive damages in addition to attorneys’ fees, court costs and other expenses.

City Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city had not received the suit as of Wednesday evening and could not comment.