Ill. mayor suspends embattled police chief

St. Joseph News-Press

The mayor of North Chicago announced Tuesday he has placed on paid administrative leave Chief of Police Michael Newsome, and hired a retired police officer to lead an investigation into six cases of alleged excessive use of force by police over the past 18 months.

"I do think that is something that we do need to look into and make sure that things are being done properly in our police department," Mayor Leon Rockingham Jr. told reporters. "There’s a lot of things that have come to light that I think does warrant us to take a second look."

In addition, the gender and race of the people involved in the incidents will be investigated and reporting requirements will be tightened, he said. "I think that we, as the city of North Chicago, do need to make sure that the residents and people who are coming into our community are being handled properly," he said.

But Rockingham expressed confidence in police, whose job is to maintain order among the 36,000 residents of North Chicago, where the average income was $17,685, according to the 2010 Census. "I will say, if there’s anyone we find that is not doing what they should be doing, we will do disciplinary actions to those officers," he said. "But I think, all in all, if you look at our department, we have a fine police force."

Over the past four years, the department has been involved in some 88 use-of-force incidents, the mayor said. Asked how many of them were investigated at the time they occurred, Rockingham said that that was to be part of the newly announced investigation, which is to be completed by February 1.

Rockingham said the six cases to be focused on came to light after publicity surrounding the case in November of Darrin Hanna, who died days after police allegedly beat him and used a Taser on him during a domestic abuse call to his house.

"I’m a mother who lost her son by a beating," his mother, Gloria Carr, told reporters recently.

In a case that occurred last October, Christopher Harper, 31, of Waukegan, told CNN that he was preparing to leave his job as a bouncer at a North Chicago bar when a policeman pulled up shortly before midnight. The radio in Harper’s Dodge Magnum was cranked, which apparently bothered the policeman, Harper said. "He told me he was towing the car for loud music," Harper said.

Harper said that he then took his house keys out of his car’s ignition and was walking away from the policeman toward the bar when he was struck repeatedly by electroshocks. "He just Tased me in my back for no reason, and kept doing it. I didn’t understand that."

The officer fired a Taser at least six times into his back, he said. "I ran ’til I couldn’t take no more of the shockage, and then I just fell out. I was asking him why was he Tasing me." At least two of the Taser strikes hit him while he was on the ground, he said.

The officer then took Harper to jail, where he was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, which he denies. "I never touched him, so I don’t know where that came from. Not at all. I couldn’t."

The next day, after he was released, Harper drove himself to a hospital for treatment of burns and bruises on his back. He said he stayed out of work for two weeks, had to pay $600 to get his car back and has not yet determined what he owes the hospital.

Harper said he has not filed a complaint, but has contacted a lawyer about his treatment by the police. "They are just losing their minds for some reason," he said.

In another incident, a police video was played at a city council meeting last month that appeared to show an officer punching a detainee in the head and putting him in a choke hold.

A woman who answered the telephone Tuesday night at the police department said no one was available to talk to the news media.

Copyright 2012 St. Joseph News-Press, NPG Newspapers Inc

Copyright 2012 ProQuest Information and Learning

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