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Cop accused of body slamming man took ‘enormous amount of abuse,’ tried de-escalation tactics, FOP president says

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham is accusing the Chicago Police Department of rushing to judgment —before an investigation had even begun — based on a 41-second video posted to social media that tells only part of the story.

Bernard Kersh, 29, is shown in a booking photo released by the Chicago Police Department after being charged with aggravated battery of a peace officer.
Bernard Kersh, 29, is shown in a booking photo released by the Chicago Police Department after being charged with aggravated battery of a peace officer.
AP Photos

A Chicago Police officer stripped of his police powers for body slamming a man to the ground took “an enormous amount of abuse” and tried de-escalation tactics before the takedown, the police union president said Wednesday.

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham accused the Chicago Police Department of rushing to judgment — before an investigation had even begun — based on a 41-second video posted to social media that tells only part of the story.

“Our attorneys have told me there are more videos. And it shows that de-escalation tactics were used and that the officer did a lot to try and calm the situation down before the emergency takedown,” Graham said.

“If you look at all of the video…the officer takes an enormous amount of abuse prior to that. And it isn’t until there is fluid from another person — who we don’t know [whether he has] communicable diseases — went into his mouth and eye” that the takedown occurred.

Graham is a 35-year veteran police officer who has been spat on while attempting an arrest. He argued that it’s easy to sit in judgment after the fact and say there were other ways to diffuse the situation short of slamming a man to the ground. But, he said, “They’re not the person standing there” taking the abuse.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Mayor Lori Lightfoot decried the video as “very disturbing,” prompting CPD to strip the officer of his police powers and place him on desk duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the Civilian Office Of Police Accountability.

The officer will have no arrest or police powers, and can’t use or carry a gun as an officer while the investigation continues, officials said.

Graham called that punishment pre-mature.

“Not only has that investigation not been complete. It hasn’t even been started. And he was already stripped of police powers. That’s wrong,” Graham said.

“You’re basing your ideas on what occurred based on a blurry video. One video and not all of the videos… This officer hasn’t made a statement and already you’re stripping him because it looks bad.”

Lightfoot’s pre-investigation tweets don’t help. They only play to the crowd, Graham said.

“What it is saying is that we’re going to rely more on public opinion than on facts. And you cannot operate like that. It is important to have a fair and impartial investigation,” he said.

The incident started shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday, when officers saw a 29-year-old Bernard Kersh drinking alcohol at a bus stop in the 800 block of East 79th Street and approached him, according to police.

Police said Kersh, who was later hospitalized, became “irate and licked the face of an officer and made verbal threats toward the officers. When Kersh spit in an officer’s eye and mouth, the officer performed an “emergency takedown,” according to police.

Kersh faces a felony count of aggravated battery of a peace officer, misdemeanor counts of assault and resisting arrest, as well as a count of drinking alcohol in public.