Fox Lake suspends three cops after prisoner roughed up

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In another black eye for the Fox Lake Police Department, village officials said Friday they had disciplined three officers after a prisoner was roughed up and the police chief at the time did a “superficial review” of what happened.

The announcement of the suspensions comes just weeks after the department received international attention for the misdeeds of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, who staged his own suicide to look like a murder as he was facing investigation for stealing thousands of dollars from a police youth group he led.

Village Administrator Anne Marrin began her investigation in August into how the prisoner was treated while in custody last year,  just as her separate investigation into Gliniewicz was ramping up. There is no suggestion Gliniewicz had anything to do with roughing up the prisoner.

The prisoners’ treatment was caught on video surveillance and when Marrin first saw it,  she thought it would be “problematic,” she said at a news conference Friday.

Three police officers received suspensions without pay of 10, 16 and 30 days. They acknowledged their wrongdoing, officials said. An investigation into a fourth officer – who has denied any wrongdoing — is ongoing.

“The events of the past several months in Fox Lake have reminded us that we can and should do a much better job,” Marrin said.

Marrin also opened an investigation into whether the intial review by Police Chief Michael Behan of what happened to the prisoner was thorough. Just days later, Behan was placed on paid administrative leave and shortly after, Behan said he was retiring.

Questions were raised about Behan’s supervison of Gliniewicz after the village eventually released hundreds of pages of disciplinary records involving Gliniewicz, who often seemed to escape any serious punishment for significant infractions.

The incident with the prisoner started when officers picked up an intoxicated homeless man on the street in December 2014. When he was being led into a cell, he spit in an officer’s face and tried to cover a camera mounted on the wall with clothing.

Image from a video played Friday at a news conference at the Fox Lake Police Department. | Ruth Fuller/For Sun-Times

Image from a video played Friday at a news conference at the Fox Lake Police Department. | Ruth Fuller/For Sun-Times

When the cops went in to uncover the camera, the man continued to behave erratically. Det. Jason Baldowsky entered the cell and in a video shown at the news conference can be seen shoving the man onto a concrete seating area and placing his hand around the man’s neck.

As officers took the man to another cell, they are seen in the video pushing him into a wall and door, causing him to hit his head.

Baldowsky was suspended 16 days, in addition to a four-day suspension he previously received for the incident, the village said.

Police Officer Shane Campion was suspended 30 days; Officer Eric Ewald 10 days.

The prisoner declined any medical attention and did not wish to file a complaint against any of the officers, Marrin said. He wound up receiving $4,000 to settle his claim against the village because of the abuse, she said.

The man did “reach out” to village officials after being interviewed by the FBI. Village officials thought that the $4,000 was “fair compensation” for what he had been through, Marrin said.

“I personally apologized to him,” Marrin said.

Fox Lake officials said they have alerted the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office and the FBI as to the status of their investigation.

“Today, we are holding officers accountable for their actions,” Marrin said. “Our residents rightfully expect that Fox Lake Police officers are treating members of the public with professionalism and respect at every turn. By and large that happens day in and day out in Fox Lake. However, when we become aware that officers may have violated our rules and regulations or have mistreated a citizen, it is our job to investigate it thoroughly, follow the truth and hold responsible parties fully accountable.”

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