Offensive Police Photo: Why Is a Black Suspect Wearing Antlers? Why Do the Cops Have Hunting Rifles?



Chicago PD

Yes, this really happened at a Chicago police station: A black suspect put antlers on his head, stuck out his tongue, and dropped to all fours (whether this was voluntary, we know not). Two cops posed with the suspect—hunting rifles in hand—and let someone photograph it.

The shockingly offensive* photo—which depicts the black man as an animal to be hunted—was recently released to The Chicago Sun-Times after a judge ruled that it should not be kept out of the press. It was probably taken between 1999 and 2003.

Neither of the two officers pictured in the photo have fared well since then. Jerome Finnigan, the man on the left, is currently serving 12 years in prison for "leading a crew of rogue cops in robberies, home invasions and other crimes," according to The Sun-Times. Timothy McDermott, the man on the right, was fired last year after federal prosecutors discovered the photo and handed it over to department officials. McDermott has appealed his termination.

The photograph becoming public record probably won't help his case. (No word yet on whether the police union will agree to handle his legal expenses.) In the meantime, his lawyer, Daniel Herbert, offered this defense:

In his closing arguments at the police board hearing, Herbert emphasized the lack of information about where and when the photo was taken — and the mystery surrounding the African-American man's identity.

"What's to say this individual wasn't performing at a Christmas pageant in the district and was dressed as a reindeer and had taken the reindeer suit off? Again, I don't mean to make preposterous arguments, but the charges in this case, they warrant that," he said.

The black man is believed to have been a drug suspect who was released without charges. His name is unknown.

*Update: I initially wrote that the photo was "shockingly racist." That may have been going too far, since we don't know very much about the context or officers' motivations. To be clear, there is no context that would make the photo okay, but "offensive" is probably a fairer description than "racist."