An effort to fire a Chicago police lieutenant has failed after the investigating agency missed a five-year deadline by just a few weeks. The lieutenant, Glenn Evans, is one of the city’s leading recipients of excessive-force complaints.
The Evans case is another embarrassment for the city’s Independent Police Review Authority. Since an officer’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, IPRA has received a tide of public criticism for failing to find officers at fault in hundreds of shootings and recommending no discipline or light penalties after misconduct complaints.
Evans has been the subject of at least 123 misconduct complaints since joining the police department in 1986, according to police records obtained by WBEZ. Approximately half of those complaints allege excessive force. The city has disciplined Evans in only a handful of the force cases.
As Evans accumulated complaints, police managers praised his work ethic and promoted him through the ranks. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy made Evans a district commander in 2012 before demoting him to lieutenant. That demotion took place after Cook County prosecutors brought felony charges against Evans related to a 2013 excessive-force complaint.
A May 6 letter from IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley recommended that Evans be terminated based on a complaint about a 2011 incident, according to agency spokeswoman Mia Sissac. The deadline for the city to recommend his dismissal was April 10.
In that incident, officers had arrested Rita King, a South Side woman with a history of homelessness. King was not going along with her fingerprinting and photographing in the Gresham police station.
To get King to cooperate, Evans made physical contact with her head and arms, according to a sworn deposition he gave in a federal lawsuit brought by the woman.
Fighting the lawsuit, the city has claimed that Evans’ use of force was reasonable.
King accused Evans, at the time a lieutenant, of pressing his hand into her face and threatening to push her nose through her brain. After her release from the station, she filed a complaint with the city.
In February 2015, nearly four years later, IPRA Chief Administrator Scott Ando recommended that Evans be suspended for 15 days over the incident, a move first reported by WBEZ. But McCarthy sent the case back to IPRA for more investigation.
In December, during a public outcry over the McDonald shooting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel replaced Ando with Fairley, a former federal prosecutor. The mayor also fired McCarthy. Emanuel put Eddie Johnson in charge of the police department in March.
For the King incident, Johnson proposed a 30-day suspension for Evans. After Fairley’s May 6 letter, which recommended the termination, Johnson refused to go along with firing Evans and insisted he could handle the lieutenant professionally after serving as his immediate supervisor in Gresham when the King incident took place.
Sissac says a June 1 letter from Fairley asked the city’s Police Board to convene a three-member panel to resolve the dispute, a process required by city ordinance.
On Tuesday, however, IPRA acknowledged that it had overlooked something. In a Chicago excessive-force case, Illinois law does not allow the city to recommend a termination or a suspension of more than 30 days once five years have passed since the incident.
“After further review by our general counsel and outside counsel, we’re confident we can’t move forward with our recommendation for [Evans’] separation due to the statute of limitations,” Sissac said.
Asked later whether Johnson plans to stick with his recommendation for a 30-day suspension, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi sent a statement that does not answer the question.
“The department was informed that the statute of limitations in IPRA’s case against Glenn Evans expired, and we look forward to working with IPRA on any future investigations involving Evans, as well as other investigations involving any misconduct among officers,” the statement says.
Another pending complaint stems from the 2013 incident, when Evans was the commander of the Grand Crossing police district . Rickey Williams, a South Side man, accused Evans of putting his service pistol in his mouth and throat and threatening his life.
WBEZ revealed the case and its DNA evidence in 2014. Weeks later, the prosecutors brought the criminal charges against Evans. Last December, a judge acquitted Evans after a trial in which his attorneys accused IPRA of bias and incompetence.
The King case is the second IPRA embarrassment in recent days. Last week the agency discovered it was missing key video evidence from a separate 2011 incident, a fatal shooting by police during a traffic stop. IPRA says its investigators did not know the video existed until WBEZ asked questions about it.
WBEZ asked the questions after noticing that the video was not among hundreds of recordings that IPRA posted online this month. The postings are part of a new transparency policy that seeks to build public trust.