Content warning: This story includes descriptions of alleged domestic violence.
Interim police superintendent Fred Waller was accused of domestic violence by a thirty-nine-year-old woman in 2006, according to records obtained by the Weekly. During an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), Waller made statements that contradicted evidence gathered by OPS investigators. Despite the inconsistencies, OPS marked the allegations as “not sustained” and closed the investigation.
In May, Mayor Brandon Johnson appointed Waller to serve as interim police superintendent while the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) searched for a permanent replacement for David Brown, who quit after the 2023 municipal election. In a press conference announcing the pick, Johnson cited Waller’s “experience and integrity” as key factors behind his decision to select him for the top job. When Waller stepped to the lectern, he referred to himself as “old school with integrity, professionalism and respect.”
On Monday, WBEZ reported that in 1994 Waller’s then-wife accused him of committing domestic violence. After making the complaint, however, she ceased cooperating with OPS investigators, who designated her complaint “not sustained” and closed the investigation. According to WBEZ, Waller has been the subject of fifty-eight complaints during his Chicago Police Department (CPD) career.
The Weekly filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the CPD for a 2006 complaint record on June 14. After several weeks of delays, CPD provided heavily redacted documents.
The 2006 incident allegedly occurred at a home Waller was sharing with the then thirty-nine-year-old woman in Ashburn on March 26 of that year. The woman alleged that Waller choked and pushed her, according to the records the Weekly obtained.
During the investigation into the allegations, Waller told investigators “he called 911” around the time of the alleged incident. But according to OPS files, investigators determined that “records don’t reflect any 911 call being placed by [Waller].”
Unlike Waller’s then-wife in the 1994 complaint, the woman who accused him of domestic violence in 2006 cooperated with investigators throughout the investigation. She reported her complaint less than twenty-four hours after the alleged incident occurred and agreed to have her neck photographed for signs of injury by an evidence technician. Two days later, she sat for an interview without an attorney present and made a sworn statement that was consistent with her initial complaint.
She alleged that after he got angry, Waller poked her “forcefully” on the forehead several times. When she tried to prevent him from continuing to poke her, Waller grabbed her by the neck and choked her, stopping only when he saw that she could no longer breathe. After that, she said, he packed up his clothes, took a shower, and left.
The woman also told the investigator that she experienced “no visible injuries” but that her “neck and forehead were sore” after the incident. While she said she wasn’t seeking a restraining order against Waller at the time of the interview, she would if he didn’t move out.
On August 30, 2006, about five months after the alleged incident occurred and after investigators had spent weeks pressing him for an interview, Waller finally sat down for one at OPS headquarters. With two lawyers present on his behalf, Waller affirmed that “any intentional falsification of an answer” he made in his interview “would be in direct violation of the Department Rules and Regulations.” Waller also said he was “not giving [the] statement voluntarily but under duress” because he’d been advised that he could be fired if he did not.
He then categorically denied that any physical or verbal altercation ever took place, stating that the woman who accused him “was not even in the house” the day of the incident. Waller added that he was “preparing for work” and “constantly on the telephone with Officer Melvin Branch” on the afternoon of the alleged incident.
Waller told investigators that when he returned to the house after work later that evening, he found his personal items “thrown about the house and in the backyard and in the garbage.” He also claimed that he called 911 to request a supervisor and that a “female Hispanic” sergeant from the 8th District responded to his call, observed his clothes strewn about the house, and heard his explanation for what happened.
After being given “the opportunity to make corrections, additions or deletions,” Waller signed the statement, attesting that it was “true and accurate.”
But according to a memo written by an OPS investigator that same day, there was no record of a 911 call being placed by Waller or any police activity at that location during the timeframe he specified. Despite making this determination—which directly contradicted Waller’s sworn statement—there is no record of the OPS investigator attempting to contact or reinterview Waller for an explanation about this discrepancy. Neither is there a record of OPS contacting or attempting to contact Officer Melvin Branch or the “female Hispanic” sergeant Waller referred to in his statement. Instead, OPS closed the investigation that very same day, marking it as “not sustained.”
“Due to the conflicting accounts and no evidence of injury,” the OPS investigator wrote in the conclusion of the report, there was “insufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations” leveled against Waller.
OPS also noted that Waller would not be charged with making a false statement to investigators about the 911 call because that would “unduly extend the investigation on an issue that had no impact on the original allegations made in this case.”
In a statement provided to the Weekly, a CPD spokesperson wrote, “The Chicago Police Department is deeply committed to supporting and protecting victims of domestic violence. Allegations of domestic violence by Department members are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.” The department’s press office did not respond to questions specific to the 2006 incident by press time.
Max Blaisdell is a fellow with the Invisible Institute and a staff writer for the Hyde Park Herald.