N. Chicago PD chief on leave after brutality complaints

January 4, 2012 4:47:31 AM PST
For the first time, North Chicago's mayor is publicly acknowledging a crisis of confidence in the police force.

Mayor Leon Rockingham placed his police chief, Michael Newsome, on paid leave, finally caving to public and city council pressure. He will bring in a retired state police colonel to look at a total of 88 claims of excessive force by police officers filed over the last four years.

"We as a city of North Chicago really need to make that the residents and people that are coming into our community are being handled properly," said Mayor Rockingham.

Residents - some through tears - told stories at a meeting Tuesday night of alleged mistreatment at the hands of North Chicago Police.

"It hurt, it hurt when you don't do nothing wrong," said North Chicago resident Marquita McGee at the meeting.

"They tazed him, they kicked him, and kicked him in the head and beat him like a dog," said Waukegan resident Mary Miller Lane.

"No disciplinary action have been brought up against any of these officers. And when you look, the majority of these officers, it's a continuous thing for them," said Valerie DeVost, North Chicago alderman.

The chief's suspension and outside review comes after a series of incidents -- some caught on camera. They include an officer appearing to strike a man in the station's booking room.

Much of the outrage and a rash of new complaints have come since the death of Darrin Hanna shortly after a North Chicago police officer shot him with a stun gun.

Since then, Hanna's family has been the conduit for videos and new claims of excessive force, including one that appears to show an officer hitting a man so hard it sends him into a police station wall. The video was played at a city council meeting two weeks ago.

"If that officer has done wrong he will be disciplined," said Mayor Rockingham. When reminded the incident was videotaped, Rockingham responded: "There's a process we have to go through."

Hanna's cousin, Ralph Peterson, says North Chicago residents only now feel comfortable questioning the conduct of police.

"They're afraid that if they come forth, the officers are going to come after them, in some cases I have been told that. And a lot of them just feel nothing is going to happen," said Peterson.

"The reason why I'm fighting so hard for this is because I can't let my son's death be in vain," said Gloria Carr, whose son's death ignited the anger and who now sees some hope for change.

Mayor Rockingham has promised the results of the new investigations into excessive force claims by February 1st.

"They have rights as officers, and if those rights are not met, then we have problems," said Rockingham.