A south suburban police officer shown in a video aggressively restraining and threatening a black teenager has been placed on administrative leave after village officials met with the boy’s family Friday.
“At my direction, the officer involved in the incident has been placed on immediate administrative leave,” Mayor Patricia Eidam said in a statement issued after the meeting.
She has also ordered that “the investigation be turned over to an outside governmental agency” to “ensure the investigation remains independent and avoids any appearance of impropriety,” Eidam said.
The mayor’s actions were praised by Andrew M. Stroth, a civil rights attorney hired by the boy’s family.
“The mayor, to her credit, was very thoughtful in taking steps to address this,” he said after the meeting, which included the mayor, chief of police and village attorney. “The officer was placed on immediate administrative leave, and mayor is recommending an independent and third-party investigation.”
The boy’s family “seeks termination of the officer, and an audit of the Lansing Police to better understand department policies on use of excessive force,” Stroth said.
The family, “at this point has not decided whether to pursue litigation,” he said. “They want to understand what the city is going to do. They do not want what happened to their son to happen to another young kid, or anyone for that matter.”
What happened, according to Stroth, was an “officer using excessive force, unprovoked, against a 15-year-old boy.”
The video, which has been shared on social media more than 3 million times, was posted by the aunt of the one of the two boys involved in the incident, which took place Saturday afternoon in the officer’s front yard.
Police had been called about 3:45 p.m. to reports of a fight involving a number of juveniles at 192nd and Oakwood. After the brawl, a white teen had come into the off-duty officer’s yard bleeding from the face, police said.
The boy said he “was involved in a fight in which he was beaten up by several male black juveniles,” according to police.
Another teen, a 15-year-old black boy, then came into the yard, police said. The boy’s family said he was there trying to help his friend, who had been injured.
Both boys “attempted to leave” but the officer told them to wait for police. When they refused, the officer “physically detained” the black boy, police said, while the other filmed the incident with his cellphone.
On the video, the officer can be seen sitting on the boy’s chest, choking and threatening to strike the boy, while the other teen pleads for him to be released.
The boy “did nothing to provoke the attack,” Stroh said. “This was an assault. You can hear the officer asking his wife or friend to go get his service revolver while threatening the boy.”
He said the boy suffers from asthma, and was “definitely injured from being pinned down on his chest.”
He also said the boy was “psychologically traumatized” by the incident.
Both boys were turned over to responding officers and taken home pending further investigation, police said. As of Friday, no charges had been filed in the case, nor the brawl that preceded it. That brawl had ended when police arrived.
Stroh said the teen, a sophomore at Thornton Fractional South, is “a great kid with a great family that is very involved with him. He is a nice young man with absolutely zero criminal history, a good young man.”
Mayor Eidam, a former police officer, said she was “thankful no individual involved was seriously injured or killed” and “thankful that no weapons were drawn of shots fired” during the incident.
“This is not to minimize the video which has disturbed many residents of Lansing and citizens across the country, but rather to recognize that, although the images are disturbing, it fortunate the incident did not rise to the level of similar incidents that have occurred elsewhere.”
The mayor said she will continue to monitor the investigation, which she hopes will reach an “objective conclusion” and “make recommendations on what corrective actions may need to be taken.”
Local activists and an online petition are calling for that corrective action to be the firing of the officer.
The Care2 petition, which had more than 10,000 signature as of 2 p.m. Friday, reads in part: “…the behavior seen in the video is completely unacceptable for an officer. He clearly uses excessive force to detain the young teen and repeatedly threatens to kill him.”
It also says, “It is worth noting that the officer does not use excessive force or threaten to kill the white friend who was also on the officer’s property.”
Stroth, whose Injury Action Law Group specializes in police misconduct cases, agreed, saying, “Unfortunately, the narrative in our country continues to be white officers using excessive force against young blacks.”
And at a press conference Wednesday outside the police department, activists including violence interrupter and gubernatorial candidate Tio Hardiman called the incident a clear case of “police brutality” and “excessive force.”
Chicago Police torture survivor Mark Clements called the officer’s actions a “clear act of child abuse.”
They said the officer should be fired, and if not, the mayor and police chief must resign.