If you have ever watched a procedural crime drama, then you have probably heard the term ‘the thin blue line.’ In lay terms, this describes how police officers working together often will cover up procedure violations for one another. Also known as the code of silence, this tendency for officers to have one another’s backs has come into play during a trial in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s speech about the thin blue line was played for the jury in a trial over a cop involved in a fatal crash, as the Chicago Tribune reports.
The wrongful death lawsuit revolves around former homicide Detective Joseph Frugoli, who killed two young men in an off-duty DUI crash. The plaintiff’s attorney alleges that because Frugoli was never disciplined for DUI when caught, having fellow officers look the other way, that he could drink and drive with impunity.
The incident, which occurred in April of 2009, had Frugoli crashing his Lexus SUV into the disabled vehicle carrying Andrew Cazares and Fausto Manzera on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Attorneys representing the families of the two killed against the police department say that Frugoli was a longtime alcoholic who managed to escape discipline. They recounted an incident a year earlier where Frugoli ran a stop sign and t-boned a squad car. Despite showing signs of intoxication, Frugoli was placed in the back of a sergeant’s police car. He was never interviewed or given a sobriety test. Two tickets he received were later dismissed.
On the night of the incident, Frugoli had been drinking for nearly five hours. After slamming into the victim’s car, he was pulled from his own vehicle by a good Samaritan. He limped away and was later captured by fellow officers. He was handed over to state police immediately.
At the hospital, Frugoli’s blood-alcohol content was measured at .328, more than four times the legal limit. He was convicted of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a fatal accident in 2012. He is currently serving 8 years in prison and is expected to testify.
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