If the Chicago Police Department had its way, you wouldn’t be looking at this photo. The decade-old image shows two former officers, Jerome Finnigan (left) and Timothy McDermott (right), holding rifles over an African-American drug suspect wearing deer antlers. These Special Operations officers kneeled like hunters over a prized kill.
Neither man currently works for the department. Finnigan’s laid up in prison on a 12-year-term for unassociated offenses (including plotting to kill a fellow officer). McDermott lost his job last year after this photo surfaced in 2013. Both the department and McDermott tried to keep this photo under wraps “to protect the privacy” of the suspect. But when McDermott filed an appeal of his dismissal, the Chicago Sun-Times received a copy from the court file:
[A] Cook County judge has refused to keep secret the shocking image of former Officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan kneeling with what the police department says is an unidentified African-American drug suspect.
Believed to have been taken in a West Side police station between 1999 and 2003, the Polaroid photo was given to the city by the feds in 2013 and resulted in McDermott, a clout-heavy cop, being fired last year by the police board in a 5-to-4 vote. The four dissenters said McDermott should only have been suspended. But a majority of the board wrote that “appearing to treat an African-American man not as a human being but as a hunted animal is disgraceful and shocks the conscience.”
Neither officer nor the department can pinpoint the identity of the suspect. McDermott told the court that the photo was taken “on the spur of the moment.” He blamed Finnigan, who “called me over, told me to get in the picture and I sat in the picture. The photo was taken, and I went back to the business I was doing that day.” McDermott claims to be “embarrassed” by his behavior. He doesn’t remember the exact circumstances surrounding the image, but McDermott is sure he was only “trying to fit in” during his early days as an officer.
This news comes weeks after Chicago passed legislation providing reparations for African-American suspects who were tortured by Commander Jon Berge between 1972 and 1991.