In this Oct. 9, 2013 photo, former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, right, leaves the Dirksen U. S. Courthouse after being sentenced to 22 months in prison. Chicago has paid out more than $650 million in police misconduct cases in the last 15 years or so, and that the expenditure is expected to be even more. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune via AP)
A former Chicago police officer — who risked her own safety to help nab a corrupt officer to extort money from the city of the poorest and the planting of drugs on those who refused to pay — will have her story featured Friday on the CBS series “Whistleblowers.”
Shannon Spalding says she had her tires slashed and had been repeatedly threatened while they helped build the case against a corrupt team of officers run by former Sgt. Ronald Watt.
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“Someone is trying to kill me,” she replied, ” she said. “When I signed up for this job, I knew that I would have to lay my life, but I never thought that I would have to worry about the fact that a fellow officer to do that for me.”
Spalding, who joined the Chicago Police department in 1996, said she spent time in a number of the most violent neighborhoods. To survive, she remembered leaning on veteran police if Watts.
“I thought he was battling the crime, and he did it with finesse and grace,” she said.
But about ten years later, during an undercover assignment in the narcotics division, she began to see Watts in a different light.
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Spalding said she began worrying rumors as she and her partner would make an arrest with a suspect who says something in the lines of: “I can’t believe that you’re going to arrest me as one of your own is actually the run of the narcotics side,” answered she said.
After some digging, Spalding learned of the payment is met: Watt and his group would pose a threat to plant drugs on the residents of the Ida B. Wells projects, which do not go along with their rules — and that kind of harassment went on for years.
Spalding was faced with a decision.
“If we don’t report this criminal behavior we are absolutely not better than a Watt or one of these other corrupt officials. And if we do that, we can just end our careers and put us in danger,” she said.
In the end, she and her partner went to the FBI.
“My biggest fear was that, because this was a long…criminal enterprise…I felt that we would be set for the dead,” she said.
Eventually, though, Watts and one of his officers, Kallat Mohammed, were arrested after they were caught stealing $5,200 from a drug courier — who also happened to Spalding’s informant and was wearing a wire at the time.
Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison, while Mohammed received a period of 18 months in jail.
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Since their arrest, 60 Chicagoans who were wrongfully arrested by Watts and his team are acquitted.