Sergeant files whistleblower lawsuit over order to guard his boss’s Bridgeport home during riots, looting last year

A Chicago police sergeant who filed a complaint against a supervisor who’d assigned several officers to guard his Bridgeport home during the riots and looting last year filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming he’s been the victim of whistleblower retaliation.

Sgt. Marc Vanek was part of a narcotics unit that investigated online drug and gun sales. But in the spring of 2020, he and other officers from his team had gathered outside Guaranteed Rate Field, which served as a staging area from which cops were being deployed to address looting and other social unrest.

Vanek learned that his boss, Lt. Jason Brown, had assigned several officers to guard his home about a block away from the ballpark and decided to confront him about it.

Vanek told Brown “it was not fair to all of the other narcotics officers who, unlike Lt. Brown, had real worries about the safety of their own families, homes, and neighborhoods and did not have personal CPD protection,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

“Mind your own f—— business, this is my unit and I will do what I want with my people,’” Brown responded, according to the lawsuit.

The curt exchange was detailed in a complaint Vanek later filed with Supt. David Brown, a copy of which was included in the lawsuit.

The suit alleges Vanek was subjected to retaliation for speaking out. Vanek was removed from his role as head of the Internet Narcotics Enforcement Team and was assigned to an overnight shift patrolling a high-crime neighborhood on the West Side.

A police spokesman said Tuesday that the department doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.

“They reassigned him to one of the worst police districts, working midnights, and put him in a car all by himself and really subjected him to danger on a daily basis,” Vanek’s attorney Richard Linden said at a news conference Tuesday.

In a recorded statement released by his attorneys, Vanek noted that Lt. Brown, who’s since been promoted to commander, “has been allowed a free hand to punish me and ruin my reputation and others, such as Sgt. Cassandra Williams.”

Williams was one of the narcotics officers who guarded Brown’s home, according to her attorney, Torrie Hamilton.

The reason Brown gave her for guarding his house was a neighbor told Brown’s wife a couple of guys “were driving down the street in a beat-up car taking pictures of the block on their phones,” Hamilton said.

Williams guarded Brown’s house for about a week and during that time it was “beyond peaceful,” Hamilton said.

Williams has filed a complaint with the city’s inspector general and is waiting to see if it results in any consequences before deciding whether to file a lawsuit.

Williams, too, has been subject to unfavorable work assignments and a hostile work environment since she blew the whistle, Hamilton said. The Chicago Police Bureau of Internal Affairs also is investigating Brown’s conduct, she said.

Vanek, who is 45 and a 21-year police veteran, did not attend Tuesday’s news conference. He is on medical leave from the department, according to attorneys.

Vanek’s suit also names Supt. David Brown and several others in the department’s leadership as defendants. It seeks monetary damages.

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