Chicago spends nearly $40M a year on outside law firms, mostly for lawsuits against police department

CHICAGO (WLS) — Video shows Ariel Roman was unarmed when he was shot by a Chicago police officer more than two years ago. He sued the city and the officers involved. The court docket shows little progress has been made on the case, but the city’s legal tab to outside law firms is already hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In an exclusive interview with the I-Team, Roman said he is still suffering physically and emotionally, and just wants his case resolved.

“I’m afraid to go outside…it has impacted my life,” Roman said.

On February 28, 2020, Roman was seen walking from one L train car to another, which is against city ordinance. Officers tried arresting him at the Grand Red Line station, struggling for five minutes, using Tasers and pepper spray, then a gun. Investigators say Roman was not carrying a weapon.

“I was shot twice, one directly into the stomach. And the second one when I was fleeing on the escalator,” said Roman.

Chicago police officer Melvina Bogard was charged in the shooting. She has pleaded not guilty. CPD recommended firing Bogard and Bernard Butler, the other officer involved. That case is pending in front of the police board.

Roman is suing Bogard and Butler, along with the city, alleging the cops used excessive force and violated a court ordered consent decree on police reform.

“The video speaks for itself. The city of Chicago is like kicking this can down the road and spending a lot of taxpayers’ money,” said Greg Kulis, Roman’s attorney.

Through April, the city has forked over nearly $250,000 to two outside law firms involved in this case, according to information received from a public records request.

“If they’re willing to spend all this money for all this trouble and yeah, they can’t give me not one dime,” said Roman.

“Why do we continue to have so many lawsuits against Chicago police? That is the problem,” defense attorney April Preyar told the I-Team.

An I-Team data analysis shows during a five year period nearly $200 million was spent by the city on outside legal counsel. Of that, 75% was for police department cases.

The most expensive “matter” during that time period was for “CPD Potential Federal Investigations.” Taft Stettinius & Hollister received the most of any firm: $24 million.

“It’s kind of comical that the city of Chicago has three law firms representing the two officers in the city of Chicago alleging that their actions were justified yet, when we get called by the superintendent’s lawyers who are saying well, we want to help us get these officers indicted,” said Kulis. “So, the city of Chicago is spending money on both sides of the tracks. And Ariel is sitting here just trying to move on with his life.”

A subpoena was sent to Roman by the police board for CPD’s case recommending Bogard and Butler be fired. Kulis says the city is sending a mixed signal by asking his client to testify against the officers, when the city is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend them.

“Now they’re requesting from me to help them to indict or at least fire them,” said Roman.

In a statement to the I-Team, the city’s Law Department said it has 277 attorney positions and they retain “outside counsel when appropriate.”

Roman said after two years of seeing other high profile cases across the country be resolved, he is ready to put this behind him.

“It is very traumatizing. Nobody deserves to go through this, ever,” said Roman.

CPD and the mayor’s office both turned down ABC7’s requests for an interview, referring us to the Law Department. They said their “litigation strategies are confidential.” Attorneys for officers Bogard and Butler did not respond to ABC7’s inquiries.

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