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North Chicago pays out $100K to settle two brutality cases

Paul Smith injured during an arrest by North Chicago police. | Special Sun-Times Media

Paul Smith injured during an arrest by North Chicago police. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 10, 2013 3:28AM

An attorney called for sensitivity training for North Chicago police officers after aldermen unanimously approved payouts totalling $100,000 over two recent police brutality cases.

Kevin O’Connor, whose Chicago firm has won other settlements from the city for excessive police force, urged aldermen Monday night to provide training for police in how to de-escalate volatile situations. When officers are sworn-in, he said, they should take an oath to “treat each citizen with dignity and respect.”

The two most recent settlements stem from incidents in 2010 and 2011.

In the first, Paul Smith, 43, of McHenry, was assaulted by an officer July 5, 2010 after he was discovered lying on a sidewalk, reportedly drunk and incoherent. The case hinged on a police surveillance video of the department’s booking room that showed Officer Emir King punch Smith in the back of the head then grab, drag and slam him into a wall. Smith, who admitted he swore at the officer, suffered a broken nose in the incident.

Awarded $75,000 in damages, Smith told the Lake County News-Sun that he was taking psychotropic medications at the time of his arrest. After the police video was made public last winter, King was suspended for two weeks without pay, ordered to take anger management classes and sign a “last chance” agreement.

In the second case, Dennis Carcamo, 30, of Mundelein, was arrested on Sept. 5, 2011 by Officer Ray Hartmann after Carcamo allegedly refused to leave Flanagan’s sports bar at Buckley Road and Route 41, According to a police report, Hartmann “brought the subject down to the ground in an attempt to arrest him,”

Carcamo’s injuries included lacerations to the face, a fractured eye socket and a concussion. Carcamo, who will receive $25,000 in an out-of-court settlement, told his attorneys Hartmann smashed his face into the tiled vestibule floor of the bar and again several times on the squad car.

Collison & O’Connor, which is also pursuing a federal wrongful death suit in the case of Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna, who died Nov. 13 2011, a week after his arrest by six North Chicago police officers, argues the city was negligent because it ignored warnings of a pattern of rogue policing.

O’Connor said both Smith and Carcamo want to put their run-ins with the police behind them and “move forward.”

“Is it a reasonable amount (the settlements) for the injuries they suffered? Yes,” O’Connor said. “But for the emotional harm they’re going to suffer forever, probably not.”

The firm has more than five excessive force complaints against the city still pending and it recently filed a federal suit alleging excessive force in the case of Charles Smith, 52, of Waukegan, who required brain surgery after he was arrested by North Chicago police on a burglary charge on Dec. 12, 2011.

Three North Chicago police officers have been fired and several have been disciplined in the wake of public protests following Hanna’s death, while the department has struggled with a shortage of uniformed staff. Former Police Chief Michael Newsome, who retired a year ago after he was placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation into Hanna’s arrest and death, has been charged with the theft of $140,000 from a department asset forfeiture fund.

During Monday’s meeting of the City Council, new police officer Tremaine Nixon was sworn in and Lt. Richard Wilson, Sgt. Cory Marquardt and Sgt. Valiza Nash were promoted. Mayor Leon Rockingham said four new officer candidates are now undergoing training.

“We want good officers who will do right by our citizens,” Rockingham said. “We will make sure we have one of the best departments in the state of Illinois and in the United States itself.”

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