As an investigation into the Cook County, Il., probation department begins, a focus will be the department’s little-known and controversial partnerships with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, reports the Chicago Tribune. Joseph Gagliardo, whose law firm will conduct the investigation, said his team will look into allegations that the probation department has improperly partnered with those agencies and others on searches of homes. Chief Judge Timothy Evans hired the law firm after a Tribune investigation found that probation officers for years have brought the FBI and others into probationers’ homes without warrants, looking for guns, drugs and information on gangs and crime, and leading to questionable and illegal searches.
In some cases, their actions led to accusations that drugs were planted, money was stolen and probationers were threatened with jail if they refused to become informants for Chicago police and the FBI. Barry Spector, a defense lawyer who has represented probationers, said the public should care about potentially illegal searches, even though law enforcement is getting guns and drugs off the streets. “This isn’t a technicality. This is the Constitution,” Spector said. “To call it a technicality demeans everything this country is based upon. There are rules and regulations about what is reasonable and how law enforcement should act.”