Martin Preib

Award-winning Writer





CBS Reporter Dave Savini Unleashes Media Hit Job On Injured Officer

A local “investigative reporter” employing a largely discredited method of activist journalism has set his sites on a Chicago Police Officer injured in the course of doing her job.  

CBS reporter Dave Savini has been running a steady stream of media “hit pieces” against Chicago Police Officer Michelle Murphy, a south side cop who was nearly killed in the course of a traffic stop.  

Here is the report:

Looks pretty bad, doesn’t it, especially with the edited footage Savini uses? 

Well, here are a few key elements of the narrative Savini failed to mention. 

According to police reports, the officer, Michelle Murphy, was dragged underneath Brown’s car after Brown repeatedly refused to obey commands. Murphy said that Brown grabbed her and pulled her into the car, then backed up, pulling Officer Murphy under the vehicle, dragging Murphy face down in the alley against a fence. Murphy claimed she was dragged some fifty feet, miraculously surviving. 

And the injuries she did sustain, the ones not described in Savini’s hit piece on Murphy? A broken rib, cuts and scratches over her entire body, swelling all over her body and back pain. Murphy’s injuries were documented and photographed, but for some reason, never found their way into Savini’s report. 

Savini might have mentioned that felony charges like attempted murder have to be approved by supervisors and then the state’s attorney after they review the evidence gathered at the scene, so the picture of a bunch of renegade cops suddenly focusing their racist rage on a woman in her car and trumping up charges against her doesn’t really hold up too well.  

 Officer Michelle Murphy Photo from hospital.

Officer Michelle Murphy Photo from hospital.

But it doesn’t stop journalists like Savini from manufacturing such ludicrous narratives time and time again, that Murphy and her partner would suddenly attack a woman with her children in an alley, with a camera running, because they were filled with such animosity toward members of the public. 

Prosecutors lost the case for attempted murder, but obtained a misdemeanor conviction for reckless conduct, “for [Brown] driving in reverse” Savini points out, ignoring the evidence that part of the time Brown drove in reverse, an officer was under her car. 

The judge stated he believed that Murphy had been dragged: 

The evidence establishes that she [Murphy] was in fact dragged at least some distance, maybe not as far as she initially mentioned, but she was dragged some distance. The photographs of her, photographs of her clothing, of her shoes, all indicate, corroborate that she was in fact dragged to some extent or another. 

So Savini runs the footage of the cops dragging Brown out of the car, making the cops out to be the monsters. How else would officers be expected to handle a driver of a car who had just dragged another officer down an alley? 

Aside: One wonders if using such selective camera footage will soon be standard operating procedure by Chicago’s activist media: Edit out what you don’t like, publish whatever looks incriminating. No wonder so many journalists in Chicago are frothing to put cameras in police cars and cameras on cops. The possibilities for creating negative imagery are endless, especially when you have a corp of media sycophants willing to bolster the images with one absurd narrative after another. 

But given “journalism” like Savini’s, perhaps it’s time that Chicago media wore their own cameras as well, so that members of the public interested in a media that illuminates a topic rather than obfuscates it might be better able to differentiate facts from ideology. 

In his report, Savini next employs what has now become a journalistic trope on police reporting. He obtains records of complaints against Murphy and uses them to vilify her even further, even when the records clearly indicate the exact opposite. 

Savani broadcasts that Murphy, who has worked tough neighborhoods her entire career, has 19 complaints against her.

Isn’t that terrible, outrageous? 

But wait a minute. Savini fails to mention one central fact: all the complaints except one never went anywhere. Many of these complainants refused to sign an affidavit, a compelling sign that the complaints might be fraudulent. What this likely means is that Murphy is an honest, hardworking cop. That’s the real meaning of the complaint history against Murphy. 

Imagine working the worst neighborhoods in one of the most violent cities in the country, getting guns and gang members off the street every day, then getting dragged underneath a car and turned into a villain for it. That’s a scenario Savini will not even acknowledge in his report, yet that is exactly the case police and prosecutors made from the incident. 

Then imagine someone digging into your work history and claiming it is rife with misconduct when, in fact, it isn’t. 

Using complaints to slam cops in the media has become another journalism racket in Chicago. The more police work a cop does in the worst neighborhoods, the ones with the most crime, the more complaints they get. The gang members and other criminal elements know that such complaints, true or false, can be used down the road against the cop, especially by journalists like Savini. 

But Murphy does have one complaint sustained against her, and Savini is all over it.  

Murphy was off duty when she called in what she thought was a robbery of a convenience store. Turns out the youths were not in the process of robbing the store. So Murphy called in what she thought was a crime in progress, but was wrong. 

Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t that horrible? A cop calls in what she thinks is a robbery, but is mistaken. And for being wrong about a robbery taking place, Murphy received a 30-day suspension. 

Thirty days? 

Imagine if a robbery were taking place and Murphy didn’t call it in. One could see Savini’s headline: Off Duty Cop Ignores Crime in Progress.

So where does Savini’s intense antipathy to the police stem from? Why is he so unwilling to acknowledge the police side of an incident, the way a legitimate journalist would? 

Well, Savini’s tactics are not unusual in Chicago. Vilifying cops and prosecutors in the public arena, even if it means ignoring central facts, is the main strategy in the marriage of activists and their media comrades in what is commonly referred to as the wrongful conviction movement, a movement directly tied to Savini.

In fact, Savini goes all the way back to one of the first wrongful conviction cases in the state’s history, the infamous exoneration of the “Ford Heights Four,” an exoneration championed by former Northwestern Professor David Protess. 

Protess, with the support of journalists like Savini and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, fought for the release of four men convicted in connection with a vicious rape and double murder of a couple in 1978.  

For many years Protess was an iconic figure in the wrongful conviction movement, beginning with his successful effort to free the Ford Heights Four. The media who published Protess’ claims also enjoyed the limelight for fighting to free supposedly wrongly convicted killers, often based on the argument that police misconduct was the reason the offender was convicted to begin with. 

But things have changed. Protess’ tactics and his relationship with the media has drawn widespread criticism and renewed scrutiny. Protess, for example, was fired in 2011 by Northwestern, after the school uncovered evidence of misconduct. 

Northwestern quote:

In sum, Protess knowingly misrepresented the facts and his actions to the University, its attorneys and the dean of Medill on many documented occasions. He also misrepresented facts about these matters to students, alumni, the media and the public. He caused the University to take on what turned out to be an unsupportable case and unwittingly misrepresent the situation both to the Court and to the State.

Then in 2014, Cook County State’s Attorney undermined one of Protess’ biggest wrongful conviction cases when she released Alstory Simon from prison. It was Protess’ claim that Simon was the real offender in a 1982 double murder. Based on that theory, Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years. Simon’s conviction also freed Anthony Porter, the man originally convicted of the killings. 

But after re-investigating the case in 2013, Alvarez assailed Protess’ conduct in getting a confession and conviction against Simon, then called for Simon’s conviction to be vacated.


"This investigation by David Protess and his team involved a series of alarming tactics that were not only coercive and absolutely unacceptable by law enforcement standards, they were potentially in violation of Mr. Simon's constitutionally-protected rights," Alvarez said.

What does this make of Protess’ cozy relationship with journalists throughout the city? Well, for one, not one of them will look deeper into the Protess cases to determine just how deep the corruption in Protess’ cases goes. Nor will they take up the investigation to determine if there are any other wrongful conviction cases advocated by Protess that might not be true. 

And what about Savini? Is he one of these reporters with a long history of supporting Protess? 

Turns out, he is. And in his vocal support of Protess, one can see the origins of his anti-police bias that has pervaded his reporting for decades.

Check out these quotes from a 1997 AJR article about Savini and Zorn working hand in hand with Protess on the Ford Heights Four case. First, Zorn admits he virtually published in his columns whatever Protess spoon-fed him: 

"With the Ford Heights Four, I've never been shy about saying I took information and documents from Protess and re-reported the things that struck me as relevant," Zorn says. "I'd always do the re-reporting, but they'd do the legwork. I trust Dave."

In any city with a legitimate press, such statements by a columnist at a major paper would not only raise eyebrows, they would initiate investigations. What journalist or columnist can reprint the work of some private person, work that could lead to the release of men convicted of the most vicious murders, without at least double-checking the claims? 

What an image of media collusion: Protess does the leg work and Zorn sits back and publishes it. 


Well, certainly Savini wasn’t troubled by it. Here’s what this “investigative reporter” had to say: 

“Protess was the spark, says Dave Savini, a WMAQ investigative reporter who covered the [Ford Heights Four] story. People like us and Eric Zorn kept the flame burning by doing our jobs," says Savini. "That created a sense of public pressure, and the guys eventually got out [of prison].”

So Protess provides the fire and Savini admits he and Zorn keep it burning? That’s “doing their jobs"? Zorn reprints what Protess gave them, because he “trusts” Protess, then together they initiate a sense of “public pressure”? What journalist would ever admit to what is clearly a wholly corrupt method of journalism? It sounds like a form of reporting that would be acceptable in some Soviet gulag rather than one in a legitimate republic. 

Is creating a sense of public pressure, rather than digging for the truth based on the facts and evidence, the mission of Chicago journalists? Sadly, the evidence shows that’s exactly what it is. 

And isn’t that exactly what Savini is doing to Officer Murphy, igniting a fire about her in an attempt to initiate “public pressure”? 

Any Chicago cop knows that it is, especially one dragged underneath a car down a dark alley of the most Crooked City. 

Martin Preib is a Chicago Police Officer and writer. His first book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City, was published by the University of Chicago Press. His second book, Crooked City, which played a critical role in the release of Alstory Simon from prison, is available on Amazon. His articles have appeared in Playboy, The Chicagoan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and New City. He is currently working on his third book about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and the Hobley arson, titled Burn Patterns.