City awaits formal complaint for teens alleging excessive-force
By Dan Moran firstname.lastname@example.org | @NewsSunDanMoran January 7, 2014 6:32PM
Updated: February 9, 2014 6:21AM
Advocates for two teenagers who aired excessive-force allegations against the Waukegan Police Department at the Dec. 16 City Council meeting returned to the council on Monday, Jan. 6, to request an update on any inquiries into the matter.
“I think the citizens as well as the family at this point (should) be able to know, within the best interests of the safety of the community, what is the present status of the officers,” said Brotha Chris Blanks of the Black Abolitionist Movement for the Mind (B.A.M.M.), referring to officers who were accused of actions that included striking a 13-year-old during questioning over a criminal-damage incident.
But Mayor Wayne Motley told Blanks that neither the department nor the Lake County State’s Attorney have received a formal complaint about the Nov. 25 incident, preventing any investigation from proceeding.
“The state’s attorney will not pursue anything without some type of sworn, signed affidavit,” Motley told Blanks. “We’ve been to the state’s attorney’s office — myself and the chief and our attorney — and there’s been no formal charges filed against anyone.
“So what we’re saying now is that this is being tried in the newspaper, this is being tried (on) TV,” Motley added, “and I have to tell you, this should be tried in a court of law, not in public opinion polls. I think you’re wrong by doing this.”
In a brief exchange of words, Motley then told Blanks to “tell your complainants and their parents to file a formal complaint, sign affidavits and we’ll begin the investigation.” Blanks responded that “we’ll make that happen this week.”
Six weeks ago, according to information discussed during audience time at the Dec. 16 council meeting, 13-year-old Jonathan Garcia and 14-year-old Giorgio Perez were questioned by police about a broken window several blocks from Perez’s north side residence.
Kevin O’Connor, a Chicago attorney who said he’s representing Garcia and Perez, told the council that officers entered the residence and inspected the teen’s shoes to see if they matched prints in the snow near the broken window.
O’Connor added that the teens were then subjected to lengthy interviews at the Waukegan police station without their parents present, and Garcia allegedly was sworn at and struck in the nose with his cellphone by a detective.
Also at that Dec. 16 appearance — during which Garcia stood wearing a shirt said to have bloodstains from the encounter — O’Connor told the council that he had filed a federal lawsuit that day in the Northern District of Illinois. Motley said Monday that “as of last Friday, we haven’t seen it. We haven’t been served with anything.”
Speaking after the council meeting, Motley reiterated that “we can’t pursue an investigation with no complaint. There’s a process, and (Blanks) knows that, because he’s done this several times.”
“Right now, we have an allegation brought forth in the newspaper and on TV, never formalized,” Motley said. “We told them, ‘Tell the kid to come in and file a complaint, let’s get this done. Let’s get your statement, let’s find out what’s going on.’”
Police Chief Wayne Walles said Monday that a written complaint filed at the department’s front desk would be directed to an internal-affairs investigator, who would then file a report with the chief’s office.
Walles added that the procedures must be followed to comply with both union contracts and the Uniform Peace Officers Disciplinary Act, a state law that requires a sworn affidavit to initiate an investigation into misconduct.
Blanks said on Tuesday, Jan. 8, that while a sworn affidavit had not been filed, he felt that the Dec. 16 council appearance by the teens and their families still should have prompted an inquiry.
“When the mayor said that we haven’t filed a complaint, that wasn’t entirely true,” Blanks said. “We had a federal lawsuit in hand. (You) really can’t get any more formal than that and registering a complaint before the City Council.”
Blanks told the council on Monday that advocates for the two teens plan to speak before the Lake County Board next week to “push for something such as an equal protection under the law oversight review board on behalf of the citizens not only of Waukegan but also the citizens of Lake County.”
“We have to find out what’s creating an atmosphere in police departments that officers feel comfortable enough that they wreck this kind of havoc on 13-year-old kids,” Blanks said. “That’s ridiculous. That should never happen to anybody’s child. I don’t care where they live or what they look like.”
Following the council meeting, Motley expressed doubt that the allegations will prove to be true.
“We’re beside ourselves with this,” Motley said. “Personally, I know the officers, and they’re very good officers. I find it hard to believe this would occur, especially over something as simple as a criminal damage complaint — and (the teens) were arrested by the way. They were arrested and charged.”