Months after reopening an investigation into the 2012 death of Philip Coleman while in policy custody, the city’s police oversight agency has called for suspensions for six officers.
Coleman, a 38-year-old University of Chicago graduate with no criminal record, died at Roseland Hospital after struggling with police officers and a detention aide in a cell at the Calumet Police District lockup and at the hospital.
The Independent Police Review Authority that year cleared the officers and their supervisors of wrongdoing, but the agency reopened the investigation late last year after video of Coleman struggling with more than half a dozen officers in a holding cell at the Calumet District lockup became a flashpoint in protests over police misconduct.
In a report that ran 70 pages — more than five times the length of the 2012 report — IPRA investigators outlined numerous violations of department policy during the hours that followed Coleman’s arrest. The report recommends suspensions ranging from 28 to 120 days, including a 90-day suspension for Keith Kirkland, a civilian detention aide shown on video dragging a shackled Coleman from the cell and down a hallway.
The Cook County medical examiner ruled the death was caused by an adverse reaction to an anti-psychotic medication he received at the hospital. But attorneys representing Coleman’s family in a civil rights lawsuit against the city maintain that the trauma of grappling with multiple officers and being jolted multiple times with a Taser were crucial factors in his death.
Coleman had been taken into custody after attacking his mother at her South Side home, while in the throes of what his family called a mental breakdown. When officers arrived, Coleman’s family told them Coleman needed mental help and had been injured.
Coleman spat on officers, prompting Sgt. Sean Tully to order his arrest for assault. Coleman’s father, Percy Coleman, said the sergeant told him, “We don’t do hospitals. We do jail.”
IPRA investigators recommended a 120-day suspension for Tully, the longest for any of the seven officers named in the investigation.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson still must act for the suspensions to take effect, and the officers can appeal his decision to the Police Board.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday the department had received the investigation and was reviewing IPRA’s findings.
The city already has agreed to a $4.9 million payout to settle a lawsuit filed by Coleman’s family. News of the suspensions was cold comfort to the family, said attorney Edward Fox.
“The longest suspension was 120 days. [Coleman] is dead. That’s not enough,” Fox said.