Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Shocking video from a Chicago block party that appears to show a woman being thrown against a squad car and an officer striking a man with a baton is one of the many materials released today by Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority as a part of a new transparency policy.
Video, audio and other materials from 101 open cases involving the Chicago police were made public today in what IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley called a “historic” release. The materials released were released by the city’s IPRA — which investigates complaints of police misconduct — marking the implementation of a new transparency policy regarding the release of materials related to serious incidents involving Chicago police.
Chicago has “struggled with so many questions about policing,” Fairley said at a news conference today. “There’s a lack of trust,” she said, adding that “increased transparency is essential in rebuilding that trust.”
This video, which the IPRA said was taken at a July 2014 block party, documents the arrests of Lisa Simmons and Jeremiah Smith, who later sued Chicago on claims of police brutality. The case was settled out of court, with Simmons and Smith getting $100,000 between the two.
According to Simmons’ arrest report, an officer at the block party saw Simmons drinking and placed her under arrest. A crowd began to form, and when the officer started to bring her to another squad car, she “pulled away” and the officer thought she was fleeing, the arrest report said, so the officer “restrained her against his squad car.”
The video made public today appears to show Simmons roughly thrown against the squad car. An officer can be heard yelling at the crowd, “Get out of the street or you’re going to jail!”
The video then appears to show the officer striking Smith with a baton and forcing him to the ground. The police report noted that his forceful actions were warranted because Smith was “throwing a punch,” leaving the officer “in fear of receiving a battery.” The officer “defended himself by using his impact weapon,” the report said, and “during the dynamics of the altercation the offender was struck in the ear area.”
The video, while partially obscured by another officer, appears to show Smith lurching backwards as the officer reaches for him.
“It should be noted that while the offender was on the ground he was reaching for an unknown object in his right pocket,” the police report said, later stating that a knife was recovered from his pocket.
The arrest report says Smith was taken into custody and treated for bruising and swelling to the ear area.
Smith was initially convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest, but the conviction was vacated, court records show. Simmons had no convictions from her arrest on that day.
Simmons and Smith’s attorney, Rahsaan Gordon, told ABC News today that Smith was brutally struck in the head, after which Smith was arrested and spent almost two weeks in jail. Smith pleaded guilty to resisting arrest — which Gordon says was a false confession so he could be released from jail. Gordon said once he was involved in the case and the video emerged, he convinced the prosecutor to persuade the judge to vacate the guilty plea.
Gordon told ABC News the video showing his clients’ arrests “speaks for itself.”
“These videos shed light on how these communities have been policed for a long time,” Gordon said. “In the video, you see a woman holding a very small child — it shows that even young children are witnessing this extreme violence by police. This leaves impressions on a whole community.”
IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac told ABC News that IPRA cannot comment specifically on ongoing cases, but said “the release of materials today does not necessarily mean that there’s been a determination regarding the officer’s conduct.” Sissac said the new transparency policy is not anti-police, but rather it’s “about providing information to the public that we found is in the interest of the public, according to the policy written and recommended by the police accountability task force.”
Fairley, the IPRA chief administrator, told reporters this morning that the released materials “may not convey all of the facts and considerations that are relevant to an investigation of an officer’s conduct. Sometimes videos may capture only a portion of an event and leave out critical facts and context that are also relevant in assessing the conduct of anyone that is involved.”
Fairley added, “the release of these materials has no bearing and makes no representation about the status or outcome of any of the underlying IPRA investigations.”
The materials released by IPRA today “are still open, ongoing investigations,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Frank Giancamilli said in a statement to ABC News today. “Superintendent [Eddie] Johnson has stated that accountability begins with him down to the last probationary police officer and that if these investigations determine intentional misconduct that those responsible will be held fully accountable.”
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the Simmons and Smith case, but in a statement earlier today called the overall document release “irresponsible” and “sad.” The FOP said its representatives met with police, city and IPRA members less than 24 hours before the release, claiming they were given “minimal notice.”
“To say this meeting turned contentious would be an understatement,” the FOP statement said.
The FOP said they were told reports would be redacted and not reveal who is being investigated.
“It is our hope that the Department, the City and IPRA consider our advice and add audio as well as an explanation of what the video shows,” the FOP said. “It is sad when, with all the talk about transparency and communication, they decide to operate in this manner.”
Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Read More →