May 27–In his first major test on discipline since becoming Chicago police superintendent, Eddie Johnson has so far refused to go along with a recommendation by the city’s police oversight agency to fire a former police commander with a long history of excessive-force complaints.
The former commander, Glenn Evans, now a lieutenant, was acquitted in December by a Cook County judge on charges he shoved his gun down a man’s throat despite evidence showing the alleged victim’s DNA on Evans’ gun.
At issue now is what discipline should be meted out to Evans after the Independent Police Review Authority found him at fault for pressing his fist into the nose of a woman who refused to be fingerprinted in 2011. A lawsuit brought by the woman, Rita King, alleged she suffered a broken facial bone.
Frank Giancamilli, a police spokesman, said IPRA has more recently recommended that Evans be fired for the incident after first proposing just a 15-day suspension. Johnson has not decided on whether he agrees that Evans should be fired, Giancamilli said.
IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac confirmed that the agency recommended that Evans be fired for his actions with King. But Sissac said Johnson had disagreed with that severe a punishment, instead recommending that Evans be suspended for 30 days.
At this point, Johnson and Sharon Fairley, IPRA’s chief administrator, are still hashing out whether they can agree on what punishment should be imposed on Evans, who remains on paid desk duty.
If the two don’t reach agreement, Evans’ punishment will be decided by three members of the mayoral-appointed Chicago Police Board.
At the time of the King incident five years ago, Evans was a lieutenant assigned to the Auburn Gresham community patrol district — and Johnson was his commander.
At an unrelated news conference Thursday afternoon, Johnson said he saw no conflict of interest and had no plans to recuse himself from deciding Evans’ punishment.
“So at the end of the day if it is discovered that (Evans) should have a more severe penalty, then I accept that,” Johnson told a Tribune reporter. “I’ve said from day one we have to all be held accountable, whether it’s me or the last police officer.”
Pressed on the point if he should step aside from deciding the issue, Johnson said, “Glenn and I have been colleagues over the years, but I do believe that I can still be professional in determining the penalty when people are acting inappropriately.”
King was arrested in April 2011 on charges of simple battery and disorderly conduct and brought by officers to the Gresham police district station, where Evans then worked. In the lockup, she objected to being fingerprinted by officers, according to her lawsuit, which is pending in federal court.
“We know somebody who can get your fingerprints,” the lawsuit alleged one of the officers told King.
Evans was then summoned to the lockup. The lawsuit alleged he ordered officers to restrain King. Evans then pressed his fist into King’s face, threatening to push her nose into her brain, the suit alleged.
The misdemeanor charges against King were later dropped.
Prosecutors charged Evans in August 2014 with aggravated battery and official misconduct for allegedly shoving his service weapon down the throat of reputed gang member Rickey Williams inside an abandoned South Side house, pressing a Taser against his groin and threatening to kill him.
Judge Diane Cannon acquitted Evans on all charges in spite of the evidence showing Williams’ DNA on Evans’ service weapon. Cannon dismissed the evidence as “of fleeting relevance or significance.” She also played up inconsistencies of Williams’ account of the incident, saying his testimony during the trial “taxes the gullibility of the credulous.”
At the time of the charges in 2014, Evans was a commander of the West Side’s Harrison District and was frequently praised by then-Superintendent Garry McCarthy for his no-nonsense approach to policing some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. He was demoted to his service rank of lieutenant after the criminal charges were filed.
The Tribune published a front-page story in 2014 that Evan had amassed 36 complaints from January 2006 through July 2014, a period in which he was promoted to lieutenant and then named one of only 22 district commanders.
Over that 81/2-year period, Evans had far more complaints than any other commander and topped all but 34 officers for the entire 12,000-strong department. He continued to pile up complaints — nine in all — even after he was promoted to commander of the South Side’s Grand Crossing police district in August 2012 by McCarthy, according to a Tribune analysis of the data.
Combined with previously released records, Evans has been the subject of at least a combined 50 complaints since 2001.
Evans has been disciplined only on rare occasions despite his lengthy history of complaints.
To his supporters, Evans brought an admirable aggressiveness and work ethic, often continuing to work the city’s most dangerous streets as he rose through the ranks. A series of iconic Tribune photos captured Evans’ style during NATO summit protests in May 2012 when the then-lieutenant was hit over the head with a wooden stick as he stood with other officers fending off rowdy protesters.
Colleagues described Evans as a leader who didn’t fit the traditional mold of a district commander, a post that brings intense pressure to reduce violence, particularly in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Several colleagues of his have told the Tribune that he spent considerable time on the street, joining in foot chases and responding to shootings and traffic stops. As a commander, he sometimes had been known to catch only a few hours of sleep in his office before starting all over again.
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