Top cop puts officer seen in viral video apparently restraining woman at beach on desk duty
Attorneys for the woman called the incident “an obvious case of racial profiling.” It is being investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged COPA to give the case top priority.
The officer seen in a viral video restraining a woman who was walking a dog at North Avenue Beach was placed on paid desk duty Monday by Police Supt. David Brown while the agency charged with looking into police misconduct conducts its investigation.
Brown’s decision was in line with the recommendation from Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which is investigating the incident. The other option COPA recommended to Brown was to strip the officer of his police powers pending the conclusion of their probe.
Lawyers for the woman, who is Black, have called the altercation with the white officer “an obvious case of racial profiling.”
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Brown wouldn’t comment on the allegation early Monday, saying only that “there was some closure of the beach that preceded this interaction. That’s the extent of what we know. We don’t have an arrest, apparently, by this officer. And we don’t fully understand because we haven’t interviewed this officer yet.”
Brown said the woman in the video hasn’t been interviewed either.
“I know it’s frustrating for the public to wait,” Brown said. “I would just ask for the public to allow COPA to complete its investigation. And then allow this process of finding out what happened, getting to the bottom of it, before we then make [disciplinary] next steps, from my perspective.”
The woman in the video, Nikkita Brown, was near the lakefront with her dog Saturday around 12:10 a.m. when a Chicago police officer approached her for being in the area after the park was closed, according to a statement from Saulter Law, the firm representing the woman.
Brown told the officer she and her dog were leaving the park, the statement said. In the video, Brown and her dog appear to be walking away from the officer as he follows closely. At one point, Brown turns around with a phone in hand and stops.
Moments later, the officer appears to reach for Brown’s phone and then grabs her. Brown can be heard yelling, “Let go!” as she struggles to break free.
Attorneys accused the officer of “violently” attacking Brown “for absolutely no reason.”
“He attempts to tackle her, all while groping her body as she screams for help,” the statement said. “This unprovoked attack lasts for approximately two minutes, during this time Ms. Brown’s phone is knocked from her hands and she is knocked out of her shoes.”
When Brown is finally free, she can be seen on video picking up her phone from the ground and walking away with her dog.
Attorneys allege the encounter was racially motivated, noting there were several other people in the park that night, including a group of about four white people walking some distance behind Brown.
“This was an obvious case of racial profiling,” the law firm’s statement said.
Brown returned home and called 911. She filed a report with a sergeant from the 18th District, though attorneys said Brown hasn’t received a copy of the report.
Brown is suffering “emotional trauma” from the “brutal, unprovoked and unlawful attack,” according to the attorneys.
Ephraim Eaddy, a spokesperson for the COPA, said the agency has been in contact with Brown’s attorney.
Patricia Roberts, who shared the video on Twitter and said she’s Brown’s mother, said in a tweet that the video was recorded by a city worker who followed her daughter home, “making sure she was safe & not followed by the cop.”
Attempts to reach Roberts on Sunday evening were unsuccessful.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she was “quite disturbed by what I saw” on the video.
“It looked like the woman was following the direction of the officer and leaving the beach,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on the first day of in-person learning at Chicago Public Schools.
As soon as the video came to the Chicago Police Department’s attention, the Internal Affairs Division launched an investigation, identified the officer involved and pulled “all of the relevant video,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot has been highly critical of COPA for the slow pace of its investigations. That public criticism culminated in the resignation of COPA’s chief administrator Sydney Roberts.
This time, the mayor urged the civilian oversight agency to speed it up.
“It’s concerning what we saw on the video. but I want to make sure that COPA moves this to the top of the priority list and gets this done. This woman deserves to have answers as to what happened as do members of the public,” Lightfoot said.
“This is a pretty straightforward matter. I’m hoping that COPA will use all deliberate speed to get to a resolution so that we know exactly what happened with this woman who seemingly was just innocently walking her dog and leaving the park.”