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Sergeant fired in Anjanette Young case, but 11 officers still employed

Photo caption: Body camera footage captures Sgt. Alex Wolinski (black hat and glasses) in dialogue with a distraught Anjanette Young during the erroneous 2019 raid

Sgt. Alex Wolinksi, who led the botched raid of Anjanette Young in 2019, was fired Thursday, June 15 when the Chicago Police Board voted 5-3 to remove him from the force, nearly two years after then Police Superintendent David Brown’s recommendation.

Anjanette Young

But a COPA investigation said more than 12 officers were involved in the wrongful raid on February 21, 2019. The raid left Young handcuffed and naked for over 10 minutes while sobbing and telling police officers 43 times they had the wrong home.  Wolinski’s termination from the force leaves at least 11 officers unpunished as they remain employed in the department.

Wolinski oversaw the botched raid that sparked public outcry and calls for then Mayor Lori Lightfoot to take action against the team of officers. She tried to block CBS 2 Chicago from airing an investigative story on the raid and initially denied knowing of a police video that captured the incident.

The Young case was another stain on Lightfoot’s record among Blacks who voted against her during her failed reelection bid.

In its ruling the Chicago Police Board accused Wolinski of committing multiple department rule violations and cited his “failure of leadership” in the wrongful raid of Young.

Wolinski was charged with allowing for a search warrant execution without adhering to the knock and announce rule, failing to stop disrespectful treatment of Young by officers during the raid, failing to present Young with a copy of the search warrant, failing to notify a SWAT team supervisor about the raid, and allowing officers to handcuff Young naked and keep her in that way for an extended period of time – even after the officers knew they were in the wrong home.

The board found Wolinski guilty of all charges before it voted to terminate him.

The Board released a 31-page ruling that explained its decision to terminate Wolinski, who has been on the force since 2002.

“Though it was clear that the officers were not at the residence of the intended target, [Wolinski] nonetheless allowed Ms. Young to remain naked and handcuffed for an extended period of time — over ten minutes,” the Board said in its ruling.

“Ms. Young repeatedly pled to see the search warrant,” the ruling states. “Respondent ignored those repeated pleas.”

The ruling said between 15 and 20 minutes after police first entered, Wolinski complied with Young’s request to discuss the search warrant while Young was sitting on the couch.

Wolinski wasn’t present when the door was breached, and he should have been, the ruling states. He “failed to lead” during the incident and “did not attempt to control the situation, as a leader should.

“Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Board finds that the officers’ actions failed to adhere to the Knock and Announce Rule,” the ruling states. “The officers waited no more than five seconds, and likely closer to three seconds, from the time that they first knocked on the door to their attempt to gain forcible entry to Ms. Young’s residence.

Three board members who voted against firing Wolinksi, Steven Block, Nanette Doorley and Andreas Safakas, said  a “lengthy” suspension without pay” would have been “a more appropriate discipline.”

Those members said it was “easy to see” why the officer lost control of the situation.

“The scene was chaotic from the outset and spiraled quickly from there,” the dissenting members said. Wolinski “attempted to deescalate the situation, but the skills he had were inadequate to do so. These were serious failures, and Ms. Young is the one who suffered.”

Young, a social worker finishing showering in her West Side home when numerous officers burst into her apartment with a battering ram. Without showing her a search warrant, officers handcuffed her while she was naked and sobbing. Some officers were chewing gum as others searched her apartment.

The incident happened during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s term in office, a time when police misconduct soared before the U.S. Justice release a blistering report that found a pattern of civil rights violations and racial profiling of Blacks and minorities by Chicago police officers.

CBS 2 investigators found that officers could have and should have known they were in the wrong apartment. The suspect that the police were looking for, based on a tip from a confidential informant, was living in a neighboring apartment. He also was wearing a police tracking device while awaiting trial for a recent arrest.

Young received a $2.9 million settlement from the city after filing a lawsuit that the city’s Law Department tried to dismiss.

In response to the raid, Lightfoot and Brown implemented reforms in how police execute search warrants, which must be approved by a deputy police chief or higher official. There must also be an independent investigation beforehand to verify information. During raids, a lieutenant and a female officer must be present, and all officers must wear and activate their body-worn cameras.

Last November, the City Council’s public safety committee by a 10-4 vote, rejected Young’s proposed ordinance that would have ban the use of no-knock warrants during police raids.

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