Union president wants meeting with Johnson to talk about use of force

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Last month, FOP President Kevin Graham asked for a meeting with Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to “clarify when and how police officers will be disciplined for using force.” | Sun-Times file photo

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham on Monday asked for a meeting with Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to “clarify when and how police officers will be disciplined for using force.”

The request comes four days after Police Board member Eva-Dina Delgado sided with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — and against Johnson – in recommending that Officer Robert Rialmo be fired for shooting a bat-wielding Quintonio LeGrier and LeGrier’s neighbor Bettie Jones in December 2015.

Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. | Provided photos

Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier. | Provided photos

The FOP was infuriated by the decision, which places the final ruling on whether or not to fire Rialmo in the hands of the eight remaining Police Board members.

Martin Preib, second vice president of the FOP, branded Delgado’s ruling as “despicable and false” and said she “paralyzed the police.”

On Monday, Graham argued that last week’s decision placed officers and citizens in danger.

“Because of this decision by COPA and the board’s decision to uphold it, the city has abandoned the use of force model that police officers employ in the execution of their duties,” Graham wrote in a letter.

“The COPA and Police Board ruling, therefore, places our officers in a tenuous, dangerous position as well as members of the public as officers do not know if they will be disciplined for using appropriate levels of force. Many dire situations can result.”

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson addresses reporters after Thursday night’s police board meeting. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson addresses reporters after Thursday night’s police board meeting. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

The heater case landed in Delgado’s lap after Johnson met “multiple times” with Patricia Banks, acting administrator of COPA, in a failed attempt to find middle ground.

That’s not surprising considering their widely divergent views of the first police shooting to follow the November 2015 release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

After an exhaustive review of the evidence, COPA has ruled the shooting unjustified and raised questions about Rialmo’s version of events.

COPA concluded that, although LeGrier had a baseball bat in his hands, a “reasonable officer” would not have felt threatened because Rialmo was farther away from LeGrier than the officer claimed and did not swing the bat at Rialmo.

Johnson looked at the same evidence and ruled the shooting justified.

He has called into question COPA’s entire investigatory process, arguing that the agency looked at the shooting with the luxury of hindsight, instead of analyzing Rialmo’s actions from his perspective in the moment.

If Delgado had sided with Johnson, that would have been the final word. But now that she has sided with COPA, the recommendation that Rialmo be fired must be approved by the entire Police Board with Delgado abstaining.

After last week’s Police Board meeting, Johnson said the raw emotion touched off by the case “doesn’t escape me” as a “black man” born and raised in Chicago who raised his own family here.

“But…. I have to leave emotions from myself, the community and elected officials out of it,” he said.

“The important thing is there’s a process in place to resolve disagreements…I honor the process.”

Larry Rogers Jr., a lawyer representing the family of Jones, praised Delgado for siding with COPA.

“COPA was created because officers protect officers,” Rogers said.

“What Superintendent Johnson did is no different than what we’ve seen” in the past.

LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, reminded reporters that her son called police three times and never got help.

“You don’t call somebody three times to try to attack them!”

Appealing to the full Police Board to ratify Delgado’s ruling, Cooksey said, “Rialmo has to be fired….I don’t have a child. I’ll never be a grandmother. I have to live with this every day.”

Two 911 center dispatchers were suspended without pay for hanging up on LeGrier and failing to dispatch police in response to the young man’s pleas.

When Chicago Police finally did respond, they shot and killed LeGrier and accidentally killed Jones.

Controversy is guaranteed, no matter what the Police Board ultimately decides.

Attorneys for the victims’ families and African-American aldermen who are among Johnson’s staunchest supporters were stunned and outraged by the superintendent’s decision.

Johnson also got an earful earlier this month from a room-full of black ministers, elected officials and community leaders, all of whom “felt like it was an unjustified shooting,” according to Chicago Urban League President Shari Runner.

Graham has applauded Johnson for his decision.

“Rialmo was not guilty of a crime. Officer Rialmo fired his gun in defense of himself when Mr. LeGrier came at him with a baseball bat,” Graham said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has refused to take sides between Johnson and COPA.

The mayor has simply stressed that, although Johnson has “made his judgment,” that’s “not the end of the process.”


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