Updated 1:30 p.m.
The agency that reviews allegations of police misconduct in Chicago has recommended suspension for three officers in a racially-charged police raid of a West Town tanning salon. The salon manager, Chinese-American Jessica Klyzek, alleged that officers beat her, verbally abused her and that one officer threatened to put her in a UPS box and send her “back to wherever the f---” she came from.
The investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority centered on twelve named and one unknown officer alleged to have raided the salon on July 31, 2013, for suspected prostitution services. A surveillance video of the incident, shared widely online and via social media, prompted outrage among Asian-Americans in Chicago who saw the police actions as racially-tinged and demanded greater accountability from the city.
According to Public Affairs Director Larry Merritt, IPRA has recommended a 25-day suspension for Officer Gerald Di Pasquale, who allegedly made the UPS remark; an 8-day suspension for Officer Frank Messina who allegedly struck Klyzek on the head while she was handcuffed and on her knees; and a one day suspension for Sergeant Brian Blackman for failing to stop and report Di Pasquale’s verbal abuse. IPRA issued its report on June 19.
“I think it’s absurd,” said Torreya Hamilton, a Civil Rights attorney who represented Ms. Klyzek in a federal lawsuit against the city and ten officers that was settled last year for $150 thousand. Citing a letter that Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent to the owner of the salon after the raid, Hamilton said the public should have expected harsher discipline for the officers.
“Mayor Emanuel watched this video and publicly decried the officers’ behavior as despicable. and yet the internal workings of the police department still did not see fit to fire these officers.” Hamilton, who has represented several plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging police brutality, said she has long believed that IPRA does not operate truly independently of the Chicago Police Department.
According to Merritt, the matter now rests with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. As a result of mediated settlements between IPRA and the three officers, Merritt said McCarthy can either implement IPRA’s recommendations or fire the officers.
In an e-mail, the Chicago Police Department said the recommendations are still pending final disposition, and that two of the officers are on active duty and one is retired. A spokesperson for the department said he could not verify which of the officers is retired.
In total, IPRA sustained six claims of abuse or misconduct out of 49, finding all other alleged actions by the police to be justified or unfounded.
Andy Kang, the Legal Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, said IPRA’s recommendations are unacceptable. “As Asian-Americans, we’re constantly viewed as perpetual foreigners,” he said, “and (in) our society immigrants, women, people who are undocumented are continually devalued as human beings, and I think this slight punishment is unfortunately evidence of that problem.”
Klyzek is an American citizen who has lived in the U.S. for a decade, according to her lawyer.