A Lakeview-based Chicago police officer operated an unlicensed private security company, helped run a second unlicensed security firm with his children and used Chicago Police Department resources in the operation of both companies, the Chicago Office of Inspector General says in its latest quarterly report.
Some of the firms’ security work was paid for with tax money from the city. And OIG found the cop’s company provided security for nightclubs and bars in violation of CPD’s Rules of Conduct.
The OIG investigation began in July 2017 when a CWBChicago associate, now the site’s managing partner, provided the agency with information related to the officer’s private security patrols on public streets in Lakeview. After OIG investigators said that investigating a Chicago police officer without a formal complaint would be difficult, our managing partner signed an affidavit to get the ball rolling.
Still, the OIG investigation stretched for more than five years, and the accused officer resigned from CPD while the probe was active. When the investigation recently ended, it was the third-oldest active case at OIG. The two older cases were pending federal criminal investigations, as was the fourth-oldest, according to OIG records.
The police officer is not identified by name in the OIG report, but it is Thomas Walsh Sr., whose security company was paid to patrol the Boystown nightlife strip for years before losing the contract in 2020.
At the recommendation of OIG, the police department has designated Walsh’s separation from the force as “resigned under inquiry.” Walsh has also been added to the city’s “no-hire” list, according to OIG.
Origins of the investigation
In June 2017, CWBChicago ran a three-part series about Walsh and his company’s security patrols. Our reporting revealed that Walsh Security guards were promoted as being off-duty police officers, yet many were not, and some security officers working for the company wore Chicago Police Department uniform parts even though they were not police officers.
The series also made the first public revelation of an ongoing lawsuit and city investigation of Walsh, who was accused of calling a Black doorman a n*gger and battering him during an off-duty incident at the Lucky Horseshoe, a bar 3169 North Halsted in Boystown.
Walsh’s liability company paid the bouncer, James Matthews, $300,000 to settle the case, according to court records.
In June 2020, seven years after the incident, Walsh was disciplined by the Chicago Police Department. He was suspended for 25 days after an arbitrator reduced his punishment from 60 days, records show.
A stream of tips
Following our three-part series, CWBChicago received a significant amount of unsolicited information about Walsh Security patrols from Lakeview residents, a Boystown bar employee, and a member of the Northalsted Business Alliance, which paid Walsh’s company between $60,000 and $85,000 a year to patrol the Halsted Street bar district. His company also received over $120,000 a year for security services from the Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted.
One set of documents we received showed that, while the Halsted Street patrols were conducted by guards who wore “Walsh Security” uniforms, the security patrol generated shift reports under the name “A&T Security,” with Thomas Walsh and his son, Thomas Walsh Jr, listed as shift supervisors.
But A&T security was not properly licensed to operate, according to state records, and it was also receiving tax money to provide patrols in Lakeview East. We found some security guards patrolling Lakeview East also wore Walsh Security uniform parts while on tax-paid patrols provided by A&T. As a city employee, Thomas Walsh Sr. was barred from contracting for work paid with city tax money.
Documents sent by a Lakeview resident showed that Walsh Security officers conducted street stops on people deemed “suspicious” on the public way. The records showed that Walsh guards took pictures of some “suspicious” people’s IDs and sometimes distributed those images to members of a group of neighbors that paid for the patrols. In one instance shown to CWBChicago, the “suspicious” person was delivering food to a house.
OIG investigators found that Walsh “improperly used” a CPD database to search for individuals he “encountered” during private security work.
CWBChicago also determined that security guards wearing “Walsh Security” uniforms checked IDs at the door of at least one Boystown nightclub. Chicago police officers are prohibited from participating in the operation of bars and nightclubs.
For many years that Walsh security operated in Boystown and Lakeview, Thomas Walsh Sr. also served as the Chicago Police Department business liaison for the Town Hall (19th) District. In that role, he was responsible for fielding citizen complaints against bars, nightclubs, and other businesses that, in some cases, were paying his private security company for services.
In 2016, the line between Walsh Security and the Chicago Police Department was so thin that the 19th District police commander told Lakeview residents and businesses to call Walsh Security if they had problems during the Pride Parade — then, he provided Walsh’s cell phone number.
Nearly all of these activities were happening with the full knowledge of police command staff and local aldermen Tom Tunney (44th) and James Cappleman (46th).
Given the volume of information our team collected, knowing that people who should have addressed the issues were allowing them to continue, and because a substantial amount of tax money was involved, CWBChicago alerted OIG in July 2017.
Two months later, we published a story about the Walsh security companies, the taxpayer-paid patrols, and other issues. The head of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, which used tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for A&T Security’s unlicensed patrols, called our report “ridiculous.”
Where are they now?
Thomas Walsh Sr.’s “Walsh Security” company is still paid by a group of Lakeview residents to patrol their neighborhood. The security guards do not conduct street stops. The Center on Halsted ended its contract with Walsh Security in January 2020. The Northalsted Business Alliance dropped Walsh in June 2020 during the strife that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer. Walsh’s security company is embroiled in a web of civil lawsuits after one of its officers allegedly shot and killed a man near a North Center bar in November 2019.
Walsh’s state security contractor license was put on probation status for two years on August 23 “as a result of contractor providing unlicensed private security services,” according to the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation.
He did not reply to an email seeking comment for this story.
The state involuntarily dissolved A & T Security in April 2018, according to secretary of state data.
State regulators fined Thomas Walsh Jr $5,000 and placed his security guard license on probation for two years. The state allowed him to work on probationary status as a security contractor until April 2021. State records show that he is now fully licensed to contract security work and work as a security officer.
The younger Walsh is listed as a corporate manager at Protexa Security, LLC. The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce uses tax money to pay for Protexa security patrols in the neighborhood.