Three years after CWBChicago broke news that the private security firm hired by Boystown businesses to patrol the Halsted Street bar district was owned by a Chicago cop facing suspension for a race-fueled battery against a gay bar doorman, the Northalsted Business Alliance has decided to cut ties with the company.
The move comes three months after the city’s largest LGTBQ service agency, the Center on Halsted, replaced Walsh Security with another firm after community activists — armed with investigative documents from CWBChicago — demanded the change.
But the November 2013 battery of a Black doorman inside the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge was just one of the many revelations CWBChicago has made about Walsh Security and its owner, Chicago Police Officer Thomas Walsh, in recent years.
Our reports have prompted internal investigations by the Chicago Police Department and the city’s Office of the Inspector General.
Through it all, the Center on Halsted, the Northalsted Business Alliance, and other organizations kept paying Walsh hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for security work.
Why would businesses and groups dedicated to social change continue to pay money to the company? One reason, insiders have said, is that Officer Walsh was the 19th Police District’s long-time business liaison for the Chicago Police Department.
That meant any private citizens’ complaints against businesses, like bars and taverns, fell under his domain. The arrangement — a police officer receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities he might be called on to investigate – reeks of a conflict of interest. Yet, that’s the way things ran for years in Wrigleyville and Boystown.
Among CWBChicago’s exclusive original reporting about Walsh Security and Thomas Walsh are:
- an August 2015 report that a convicted felon and police impersonator was patrolling the Boystown strip as a Walsh Security guard. The guard, we reported, hadn’t held a license to work in security since the state revoked his credentials years earlier. Less than a month ago, that guard, who later received a probationary license from the state and returned to work for Walsh Security in Boystown, was charged with multiple felony counts of sexually abusing a minor in Kane County.
- a further report about Lye in June 2017
- a June 2017 report that found the private guards who patrol the Boystown strip were promoted as off-duty police officers — but many were not cops and some even impersonated police by wearing look-alike clothing and CPD-style checkerboard accessories.
- another June 2017 report that found Walsh Security guards were patrolling Boystown even though Thomas Walsh’s license to contract security services was expired. And, we reported, the logos and star-shaped badges Walsh’s officers wore appeared to violate state law by incorporating the Illinois State Seal in their designs. The state seal is prohibited on security uniforms so the public does not mistake private guards for police officers.
- our September 2017 report that Walsh Security directly received $52,520 in taxpayer funds to patrol Halsted Street in 2011 and 2012 in violation of an ordinance that bars Chicago employees — like cops — from receiving tax money for outside services.
- our September 2017 discovery that a company called A&T Security, owned by Thomas Walsh’s adult children, was receiving tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to provide security guards who sometimes wore Walsh Security uniforms and who were known to work for Walsh Security in Boystown. A&T, we reported, was not licensed by the state and neither of Walsh’s children was licensed to contract security services, either. Following our report, the state involuntarily dissolved A&T Security and regulators fined Walsh’s children.
- our September 2018 report that Thomas Walsh had reached a $300,000 settlement with the Lucky Horseshoe doorman who was injured in the race-charged battery five years earlier
- a November 2019 report that Chicago police detectives wanted to charge a Walsh Security guard who shot and killed a man near a Lakeview tavern last year, but Cook County prosecutors refused to follow through.
A group of Lakeview residents continues to pay Walsh Security about $85,000 a year for nightly patrols in the area between Barry, Roscoe, Ashland, and Racine streets.
Following CWBChicago’s 2017 reports, the so-called BARR Neighbors group met with Thomas Walsh about the Lucky Horseshoe incident as well as Walsh’s assignment of non-police officers to the group’s patrols despite promising that only cops would be used, according to emails provided to CWBChicago. BARR leaders opted to maintain their relationship with Walsh and his company.
The Center on Halsted’s security contract was worth about $125,000 per year, and the Halsted Street account is estimated to have been worth $75,000 to $85,000 in recent years according to tax filings and the Northalsted Business Alliance’s annual reports.
Walsh, who was recommended for a 90-day suspension by former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy following an investigation of the Lucky Horseshoe incident, filed a grievance to protest the punishment. His case was finally heard by an arbitrator last autumn. A decision is expected in the coming weeks, according to the city.
Through it all, many local businesses, neighbors, and local Ald. Tom Tunney and Ald. James Cappleman stood by Walsh’s performance.