Ald. Joe Moreno accused of impersonating a police officer in parking dispute

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1st Ward Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno acknowledges suggesting the services of political powerbroker and lawyer Victor Reyes but denied any quid pro quo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) has been accused of impersonating a Chicago Police officer after flashing the badge distributed to aldermen as “peace officers” to compel a woman to move her car.

It happened at around 6:20 p.m. Sunday in the 3300 block of North Clark Street.

A woman who identified herself as Ashlei Rodgers told police she had parked her car when a man driving a black Audi pulled up next to her and demanded that she move her vehicle.

“When she inquired as to the nature of the problem, the offender became more belligerent, wrote the victim’s license plate number down, displayed a badge inside of a wallet and said `You’d better pay your parking tickets! This is how we do it in Chicago!” the police report states.

“The offender then parked his vehicle behind the victim’s and left the scene. The victim, fearing the offender may not be an actual police officer, requested documentation. … A LEADS check of the … Illinois license plate number revealed it to belong to Proco J. Moreno.”

All members of the Chicago City Council are issued badges and allowed to carry guns. They are designated “peace officers.” | Provided

All members of the Chicago City Council are issued badges and allowed to carry guns. They are designated “peace officers.” | Provided

Under an 1872 law designating aldermen as peace officers, they are issued badges and allowed to carry a weapon after firearms training.

Moreno said Tuesday he doesn’t often pull out the badge, but he did this time after Rodgers parked her car in a bike lane and refused to move it.

“I pulled up to her and I said, ‘Are you gonna park?’ And she said, `I am parked.’ And I said, `You have to park close to the curb. You can’t park in a bike lane.’ And she said, `I’m from f—ing Texas. I can do whatever I want.’

“So, I pulled my badge out, showed it to her and said, `In Chicago, you get a ticket or get towed for parking in the bike lane.’ She moved her car to properly park. … I never said I was a police officer. I never said I was gonna write her a ticket or that I could write a ticket or arrest her.”

Rodgers could not be reached for comment.

Moreno said he has not been questioned by Chicago Police and does not believe he did anything wrong. He said he pulled out his badge “to give it some authenticity” and “show some authority.”

“I was doing my job showing someone who said they were from Texas and said they could do `whatever the F they want’ that, when they’re in Chicago, they can’t do whatever the F they want. They have to follow our laws,” he said.

“It’s very rare. But, when someone insults the city and is belligerent like that, I think most Chicagoans would be okay with what I did…Part of being an aldermen is making sure that people obey the rules.”

Moreno is one of two front-runners to replace newly-retired Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) as chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee presiding over the $8.7 billion O’Hare Airport expansion project.

The alderman said Tuesday said he does not believe the police report was filed and shared with the news media in an attempt to sabotage his chances.

“It’s a free country. You can file a police report about anything. I could file a police report about you badgering me today by calling me 10 times,” he said.

(The Sun-Times called Moreno about five times in an attempt to get him to comment for this story.)

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said 19th District officers have already interviewed Rodgers and detectives “will be reaching out to the alderman.”

A copy of the complaint has also been forwarded to Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office “for review,” Guglielmi said.

“While the report states that the Aldermen never identified himself as a Chicago police officer or used any emergency equipment in his vehicle, detectives will conduct a thorough investigation including interviewing both parties involved. At this time, no one has been charged,” Guglielmi wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.

It’s not the first time that Moreno–City Council champion of car-sharing, ride-sharing and banning plastic bags–has been accused of throwing his weight around.

Last year, Moreno was accused of flexing the iron-fisted control aldermen have over zoning in their wards to help “his friends” at the now-shuttered Double Door music venue in Wicker Park over the strenuous objections of property owner Brian Strauss.

After Strauss filed his federal civil rights lawsuit, the City Council voted to down-zone the property at 1572 N. Milwaukee in a way not nearly as drastic as an earlier proposal, at Moreno’s behest.

Moreno has categorically denied using threats and intimidation to keep the Double Door in Strauss’ building.

Moreno has argued that his only motivation was to make certain that residents of the trendy neighborhood have control over what goes into the now-shuttered club where the Rolling Stones once played.

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