The summer arrest of two juveniles for being passengers on a dangerously-driven bicycle resulted in a parent’s filing a formal complaint about the police’s handling of the incident on Aug. 7. The result was finally discussed at the Dec. 4 meeting of the Human Services Committee, the Committee responsible for receiving and reviewing all reports concerning citizen complaints about police officers.
The report detailed an encounter and its aftermath that City Council and many members of the public learned about since the date of the police action in July 2017. At that time, a large gathering of youth in downtown near the Burger King on Orrington Avenue resulted in the police being called.
A bike – controlled by one youth, but with passengers on the handlebars and on the pegs protruding from the rear axle – rode out across Sherman Avenue. “Two motorists had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting the juveniles,” according to the report. The youth entered Starbucks, where the two bike passengers were arrested. They were placed in a paddy wagon and taken to the police station for processing. The report said the police could not find the bike’s operator.
At the station, the report says, the two youth were given what under Illinois State law is known as a “formal station adjustment.” In contrast to the more relaxed “informal” station adjustment, a “formal” adjustment under State law may carry consequences, such as statutorily mandated reporting to the State, an admission of guilt, the functional equivalent of probation (e.g., consequences if the behavior is repeated), and parental agreement, via signature, to a corrective plan.
The report found the arresting officers were not at fault, saying the decision to transport the two 12-year-old youth to the Police Department was part of the decision to take them into “protective custody to eliminate the possibility they would become victims of an accident.” One member of the Citizens Police Advisory Committee disagreed, but the others concurred with the assessment the officers did nothing wrong.
The investigation did find fault with the police for issuing a formal rather than informal station adjustment but essentially determined the police meant well and the forms used were confusing.
The “errors” were “attributed to the higher-than-normal number of officers involved in disposition of the incident [four officers were involved in arresting and transporting two young bicycle passengers] resulting in misunderstanding and confusion that clouded the reports and prevented issuance of the correct station adjustment form,” according to the report.
The report recommended “modification of the departmental station adjustment forms, unit-wide training, and department-wide roll-call training.”
Rob Bady, who is African American and the parent of one of the arrested youths, speaking to the Committee after reviewing the report, said, “We still have a problem.” He described a recent weekend when his child went downtown with a friend “who happened to be white.” Mr. Bady admitted thinking, “He’ll probably be safe. If they do something, they’ll probably get to call home …
“This is hard. We are trying to make strides,” said Mr. Bady. “I love our police, but, Chief, you got this one wrong.” He said the family was only looking for a simple apology. “We got a letter of regret from the City Manager, which I appreciated… I am still waiting to hear from the Mayor.”
He called for a summit similar to the 2009 summit called by President Obama with Henry Louis Gates, a prominent black professor who was arrested outside his home in Boston. The president arranged a “beer summit” then, at which the officer and Dr. Gates sat together and shared a drink.
“How about these officers sitting down with my son over a soda pop? Well, soda pop, he doesn’t drink it,” but something. He emphasized: “The bike infraction was not an arrestable offense. I want them to know – they got it wrong.”
Mr. Bady said he did not sue the City and did not plan to, but he asked that his child’s record be expunged.
“Let’s move forward together,” he said.
Police Chief Richard Eddington said the decision to arrest the kids and take them to the station was for their safety. Officers decided to “extract these kids from their continued unsafe acts….” But he admitted “too many people handled it.” The department continued to review policies and find ways to “avoid taking juveniles into custody if at all possible.”
He and City Manager Bobkiewicz agreed to meet with Mr. Bady and his son, though.
“Hopefully there is reconciliation for Mr. Bady and his son,” said Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.