A Chicago police officer accused of swinging at an 18-year-old during a raucous 2020 protest downtown and knocking out one of her front teeth will face dismissal charges despite objections from police Supt. David Brown, who recommended a lighter punishment, a Police Board member announced Thursday night.
The dismissal charges against Officer Nicholas Jovanovich, a 16-year CPD veteran, stem from Civilian Office of Police Accountability findings last June that he used excessive and unnecessary force on activist Miracle Boyd, stopped her without justification from recording an arrest, seized her phone, failed to inventory it, and filed a police report that indicated he acted in self-defense and faced an “imminent threat of a battery,” among other allegedly false claims.
Brown in September concurred with the excessive force allegation but disputed all the others, according to a Police Board posting that did not provide his rationale. Brown recommended that Jovanovich get a one-year suspension instead of discharge.
Boyd’s attorney Sheila Bedi measured her praise of the city for moving Jovanovich’s discharge case ahead 20 months after the incident: “It’s important to not lose sight of the travesty of this officer escaping all kinds of meaningful accountability for almost two years.”
Bedi said Brown “going to bat” for Jovanovich suggests that promises by the superintendent to hold officers accountable and to correct “what has been wrong with the Chicago Police Department for generations are empty.”
Police Board member Nanette Doorley, a retired FBI special agent, made the decision for COPA’s discharge recommendation to advance to a trial-like evidentiary hearing. After that proceeding, the rest of the board will make the final decision on Jovanovich’s guilt or innocence and the fitting punishment, if any.
But Doorley sided with Brown regarding another officer on the scene, Andres Valle, for whom COPA recommended a 60-day suspension after finding he failed to report Jovanovich’s allegedly excessive and unnecessary force. Doorley ordered a 30-day suspension for Valle, as recommended by Brown.
The protest took place in Grant Park the evening of July 17, 2020, and called for the city to remove a Christopher Columbus statue there.
Boyd “observed several Chicago Police officers taking another protester into custody,” a COPA statement last June said.
“As Ms. Boyd began recording the incident on her cell phone, [Jovanovich] and his partner approached her and blocked her path,” according to the statement, which did not name the officers.
Jovanovich “then extended his left arm and struck Ms. Boyd’s cell phone from her hand, causing the phone to hit her face, which resulted in several injuries.”
The officer’s swing was caught on video by someone else. Boyd can be seen backing away from him before the swing.
Boyd said the officer knocked out one of her front teeth and caused damage to another tooth that required a root canal.
“He didn’t even say nothing, he just punched me,” Boyd said Thursday night, adding she wishes Jovanovich would agree to discuss the incident in a “restorative justice circle.”
At other moments of the protest, police officers scuffled with activists and used pepper spray. Some protesters pelted the police with fireworks and bottles, injuring some officers.
A few days later, Brown held a news conference and said “the vast majority of officers … exhibited great restraint.”
Jovanovich, according to a CPD spokesperson, is assigned to the Alternate Response Section, a police unit that handles non-emergency calls with staff that includes many officers facing serious discipline.
His prior assignments, according to CPD, included the department’s Englewood patrol district, a disbanded roving team called the Targeted Response Unit and, more recently, the Grand Central patrol district.
Jovanovich and Valle could not be reached for comment Thursday night.