A Jewish Chicago police officer was awarded a $540,000 judgment against a former superior who allegedly taunted him for years with anti-Semitic and racist remarks.
On July 28, a federal jury found in favor of Detlef Sommerfield, a German-Jewish immigrant who had accused retired Chicago Police Sgt. Lawrence Knasiak of calling him a “f*cking Jew boy,” waving a swastika at him, and engaging in other harassing behavior while Knasiak was Sommerfield’s superior between 2000 and 2007, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.
A spokesman for Chicago’s legal department told the Sun-Times that the city had been dismissed from the suit in 2009. That would leave Knasiak solely responsible for the judgment.
Previously, in 2012, a separate federal jury had awarded Sommerfield $30,000 in a discrimination case against the city of Chicago over the same incidents. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Sommerfield first complained about the harassment in 2004, but the Chicago Police Department did not investigate his claim until 2007. Sommerfield filed his lawsuits against Knasiak and the city in 2008, according to the Sun-Times.
Sommerfield was born in Germany in 1961, according to the Tribune, and one of his aunts was killed during the Holocaust.
Sommerfield’s lawyer, Joseph Longo, told the Sun-Times that Knasiak “was able to yell these remarks out in roll call with other sergeants and lieutenants and captains standing next to him.” He added, “Not just once or twice, but regularly, and nobody tells him to stop. I don’t understand that. It’s baffling.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has spoken with the Chicago Police Department about this case.
“We are gratified by this judgment, and hope the plaintiff is indeed able to secure his award,” said JUF Executive Vice President Jay Tcath. “The behavior of this one CPD officer was unconscionable and intolerable. We shared these sentiments with both the plaintiff’s attorney and senior CPD leaders, urging that they do what they can to help ensure that ‘the right thing’ would be done.
"Such anti-Semitism, indeed bigotry of any type, has no place in our society, and especially among those who take an oath to serve and protect on behalf of all people. CPD is now under new leadership than when this extended ordeal occurred, and we are confident and hopeful that this leadership would act more swiftly and forcefully in the face of such intolerance.”