Content warning: this article contains descriptions of police violence and sexual assault.
Frederick Collins is not shy about his troubling record as a Chicago police officer. The 53-year-old second-time mayoral candidate flaunts his nearly 30 years on the force and publicly embraces the decades-long list of complaints on his file. They’re merely accusations to him.
According to records obtained by the Reader, 42 complaints have been filed against Collins with police oversight agencies since 1995. Collins, however, denies all the allegations.
“I certainly wasn’t found guilty of anything because I still carry my star,” Collins said. He flatly denied that any of the accusations against him have even been sustained. “No, they were not sustained,” he told the Reader when asked. According to CPD records, 20 percent of the allegations against Collins were sustained, meaning investigators found enough evidence to warrant discipline.
The records include investigations conducted by three police oversight agencies that have been rebranded over the course of Collins’s career, thanks to community organizing efforts that had some success in reforming police accountability. The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) was established in 1974 and replaced by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) in 2007. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) replaced IPRA in 2016 following the murder of Laquan McDonald by then-Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The agencies have had varying degrees of success in holding police officers, including Collins, accountable for misconduct.
Some of the complaints in his file detail incidents in which Collins used excessive force on people including young children, like when he allegedly shoved a boy’s head into a locker while working as a security guard at an elementary school on the west side in 2008. Other complaints give us a glimpse into accusations that Collins sexually assaulted and harassed women, such as an incident in 2000 when he allegedly invited himself into the home of a complainant and inappropriately touched her.
Of all the complaints that were sustained, Collins never received more than a 30-day suspension. He was fired by the Chicago Public Schools for using excessive force on a student, but he was reinstated the following school year.
In 2013, a woman sued Collins for attacking her inside a Walgreens and arresting her without justification. The woman sued Collins and the city; according to court documents, she had stopped at the Walgreens after finishing her waitressing shift when she encountered Collins. The woman told Collins he’d illegally parked his car, and he followed her into the store, “forcibly grabbed her arm, causing bruising . . . then grabbed her in a bear hug from behind, and then forcibly hauled her to the area of the pharmacist in the store.” He then produced a badge and arrested the woman, who was attempting to call 911. IPRA investigators closed the case because the complainant refused to sign a sworn affidavit, but the city settled the lawsuit for $35,000.
At one point, Collins was accused by his supervisors of working part-time for the Chicago Park District while faking medical leave as a police officer.
Collins says he believes wholeheartedly in his innocence concerning all 42 complaints—in part because he’s still a police officer. Now, he’s also running to be mayor of Chicago.
“Under my administration as mayor, due process will be granted to everyone,” Collins said. “The full investigation would actually occur, not just settling accusations without any investigation whatsoever, just so you don’t take the risk of finding out whether you’re gonna pay more for a lawsuit or not pay for a lawsuit at all. To me, that makes no sense. That has got to stop. It just makes it so that the city’s just an open checkbook for anybody.”
“That young boy is trying to terrorize the neighborhood”
According to complaints filed with the OPS, Collins lived in Woodlawn near 59th and Wabash during the mid-90s. Residents frequently complained that Collins would threaten them with false arrest while also physically and verbally abusing them.
In 1995, a man accused Collins of searching his car near 59th and Wabash. The complainant told investigators that when he approached his car, Collins pointed a gun at him, threatened him with false arrest, and told him he would tow his car.
“The man stated . . . he saw a man searching his auto on the street,” the complaint reads. “He went downstairs and confronted this man who then pointed a gun at his face. [Redacted] stated that everyone at [redacted] house was hollering at the man to let him go from the third floor balcony. The man then threatened [redacted] with false arrest and told him that he would have his car towed. The complainant also stated that the accused is named Collins and has a star of 4827.”
A few weeks later, another man accused Collins of threatening him with false arrest in the same location for simply hanging out in the area. After he refused to leave, the man said Collins threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, then threw him against a wall, patted him down, and pressed a flashlight to his face and head.
At a convenience store near 59th and State the following year, a complainant alleged that Collins “squeezed [a] man’s neck” and stole $200 from him.
59th and Wabash was also a popular spot for the neighborhood kids to hang out, according to the complaints. One person accused Collins of harassing the kids and dispersing the crowd while off duty. According to one complaint, Collins told a girl that if she kept hanging around with gang members, he would “put something on her, and she would go to the Audy home [juvenile jail].”
One neighbor accused Collins of threatening him by saying, “I’m a west side policeman and I’ll have a bluecoat take you for a ride and you’ll be found.”
By the late 90s, Collins owned property at 1841 W. Walnut in the West Loop, where his tenants and neighbors described being terrorized by him.
In June 1997, one tenant accused Collins of verbally threatening him and refusing to let him retrieve his personal property. He told investigators that Collins forcibly removed him from the building, kicked him in the back, and struck him in the chest with an unknown object. The tenant said he returned a few days later to attempt to retrieve his personal items again, but that Collins threatened to shoot him.
The following year, another tenant accused Collins of telling him to “get the fuck off my property” and displaying his weapon. In a separate incident a few weeks later, Collins was accused of threatening to kill the complainant, having him illegally evicted, and falsely arresting him.
Neighbors also complained about Collins’s behavior. One neighbor accused Collins of threatening him by saying, “I’m a west side policeman and I’ll have a bluecoat take you for a ride and you’ll be found.” The neighbor also accused Collins of telling him he was going to “beat his ass.”
When investigators attempted to contact the complainant at his residence, they ran into another neighbor who described Collins as “that young boy [who] is trying to terrorize the neighborhood.”
By the turn of the century, Collins had 17 complaints on his record, three of which were sustained. Despite that, Collins was hired as an off-duty security guard at the Chicago Public Schools.
From the streets to school hallways
In November 2001 at Haines Elementary School in Chinatown, Collins was accused of dragging a student by the collar into a room, pinning him to the ground with his knee, and grabbing him around the neck. According to the complaint, the student told Collins he was unable to breathe and asked him to remove himself, but Collins told the student he wasn’t “going to take that risk.”
OPS partially sustained the allegations and found Collins guilty of discrediting the department by physically abusing a minor.
Then in 2008, Collins was accused of physically and verbally abusing a student in two separate incidents at Gladstone Elementary School. The student complained that in January 2008, Collins approached him and ordered him to pull his pants up. When he refused, he said Collins then grabbed him by the right side of the ribs, pulled him over a railing, and said, “Who the fuck do you think you are talking to me like that?” Collins then allegedly grabbed the elementary-school student by the waist, placed his foot behind his leg to trip him, slammed him down to the floor, and handcuffed him. The student was arrested and charged with aggravated battery to a police officer.
A few months later, Collins grabbed the same student in a “bear hug” from behind and walked him into the bathroom, where Collins threatened to call the student’s parole officer because he took his friend’s baseball cap. Collins then allegedly poked the student in the head, spoke to him close to his face, and used profanities while telling the student about “who was waiting outside for him.”
Investigators claimed they could not find any witness to corroborate the student’s account, so they determined the allegations to be unfounded.
Later that year, Collins was accused of physically abusing a student at Brian Piccolo Elementary School in West Humboldt Park. According to the complaint, the student was horseplaying with other kids in the lunch line when Collins told them to shut up. The student said he immediately stopped laughing, but Collins grabbed him by the neck, took him around a corner so no one could see them, and shoved his head into a locker.
Another student told investigators he later witnessed Collins walking the victim to the school disciplinarian, striking him on the mouth with his right hand while saying, “I am Chicago police, I own everybody, we run this.”
CPD records show the student was arrested for assault after he was told to stop horseplaying and failed to comply. The report indicates the student was accused of raising his balled fist towards Collins, placing the officer “in fear of battery.” The report also indicates Collins made several calls for backup claiming battery was made against him and that the offender was in custody.
Investigators determined there was not sufficient evidence to support the student’s claims because while he said there were multiple witnesses to the incident, he couldn’t remember their names and had no contact information for them. Collins also denied the allegations.
Though the incident was reported to CPD on the same day it occurred, it took the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) four years to investigate. During the investigation, IPRA requested information from CPS about the incident. CPS sent IPRA the results of another investigation of an incident that occurred at the same school a month after the lunchroom incident.
In that incident, Collins was accused of grabbing an elementary school student by her neck and slamming her face-first onto the floor in 2008. Collins then placed his knee onto her back as he struggled with another student who was attempting to help the girl. He then handcuffed the girl and walked her out of the lunchroom.
The student told investigators that Collins “grabbed her by her neck with both hands, picked her up, and threw her. [She] related that he roughly placed her hands behind her back, placed his knee on her back, handcuffed her, and dragged her out of the lunchroom.”
Multiple witnesses, including a school security guard who worked with Collins, told investigators his actions toward the student were “excessive.” One witness, who testified that he had “a good working relationship” with Collins, told investigators Collins grabbed the girl by the neck and threw her to the ground. The witness testified he asked Collins, “Why did you handle her like that?”
A school assistant also corroborated the student’s claims, and told investigators Collins “grabbed [the student], picked her up, and flipped her to the ground. Once on the ground, Officer Collins put his knee in the student’s back and handcuffed her.” The assistant testified she later saw the student “handcuffed and screaming” on the floor of the school security office. She asked Collins to remove the handcuffs, which he refused to do. She then asked him to leave the school.
CPS investigators determined there was credible evidence to suggest Collins used excessive force, and according to the complaint file, in September 2009 the office of the CPS chief executive officer sent Collins documents stating that the Board of Education approved firing him. Collins didn’t appear at his dismissal hearing and later told IPRA that he never received notification because CPS sent the letter to the wrong address. He claimed he learned of his dismissal when he attempted to obtain information on his school assignment. Collins says that’s when CPS offered to reinstate him.
Despite CPS’s findings, IPRA determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations that Collins used excessive force on the student. However IPRA did find him guilty of failing to submit a Tactical Response Report, which officers are required to submit whenever they use force.
Allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence
Some of the complaints in Collins’s file included allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
In 2000, a woman who was in her 20s accused Collins of sexually assaulting her beginning when she was eight years old. She signed a form releasing her medical records to the CPD’s Internal Affairs Division—since renamed the Bureau of Internal Affairs—which was handling her complaint, and provided a statement. Investigators determined the allegations were unsustained because of insufficient evidence.
In a separate incident in 2000, a woman accused Colins of failing to return her car keys or inventory them after towing her car. She also accused Collins of inappropriately touching her after pulling her over and searching her. After getting bailed out, the woman says Collins offered her a ride home, entered her home, “made sexual advances and touched her leg in her house.”
Investigators determined there was insufficient evidence to prove that Collins made sexual advances towards the woman, but they found that he “unnecessarily made two unexplained visits inside an arrestee’s home,” and that he made false reports when he denied entering her home. Collins was suspended for ten days.
In 2004, according to OPS investigative documents, the mother of Collins’s child was involved in a custody battle with him when she came to Dett Elementary School to pick up their daughter. The complainant had been granted an order of protection and custody of the daughter, who “was to have no contact by any means with Officer Collins.” The woman accused Collins, who had also come to the school to take their daughter home, of physically abusing her by grabbing her by the coat, shoving her, kneeing her on the chest and back, elbowing her on the back, squeezing her head and neck, pushing her to the ground, twisting her arms, handcuffing her too tightly, and then paying witnesses to say the complainant attacked him.
Multiple witnesses testified that the two had been involved in an altercation that became violent. OPS investigators determined that the allegations were either unfounded or not sustained because of insufficient evidence, contrary accounts from witnesses, and because there were “conflicting accounts” as to when Collins was made aware of the order of protection.
A police officer seeks public office
Despite racking up dozens of complaints as a police officer by the 2010s, Collins began acting on his aspirations for elected office. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary for the First U.S. Congressional District, coming in second with 24 percent of the vote.
He then ran for mayor in 2015, but withdrew from the ballot after facing challenges to his petition signatures. The following year he threw his name in the hat for a seat in the 7th U.S. Congressional District, but withdrew before the primary.
Collins’s mayoral campaign website describes him as a “predecessor of what Harold Washington stood for.” His public safety plan includes a promise to “bring back and Implement ‘STOP AND FRISK LAWS’ with the use of new technologies such as police body cameras to insure that there is public ‘TRANSPARENCY AND TRUST.’” He also promises to “remove the useless and destructive policies such as the ‘DO NOT CHASE POLICY’ implemented by the ‘MAYOR LIGHTFOOT’ administration that has severely ‘BLOCKED’ our brave men and women in uniform from effectively being able to do their job of ‘PROTECTING’ the citizens of this great city.”
Collins denied all the allegations in the 42 complaints against him, including the nine that investigators sustained. “I bet if you look in all 40 of those complaints, there’s no affidavit from the complainant,” he said. “You know why? Because they know, if they got found out that they were lying, they could be prosecuted on that affidavit. And that’s one of the things as the next mayor of Chicago, if you make a complaint against any city employee, you’re going to have to sign an affidavit.”
Beginning in 2004, affidavits were required of witnesses to police misconduct for full investigations to occur, but the SAFE-T Act changed that in 2021 after advocates spent years arguing that the requirement discouraged victims from pursuing complaints against cops.
Of the 42 complaints against Collins, seven were filed after 2004 and required an affidavit, which complainants refused to sign. All seven cases were subsequently closed and no disciplinary action was recommended.
“If there [were proof], I’d be in a court of law,” Collins said about the myriad allegations against him. “I’d already be in the federal penitentiary.”