Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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EPD supports policies on force

In this article, the Daily misreported the charges facing Evanston Police Department officer Michael Yorty. Yorty was indicted on charges of official misconduct, obstruction of justice and perjury. The article has been corrected.

Evanston Police Department made headlines in September when two of its officers were indicted for allegedly beating a Chicago man, but police said they have adequate policies to prevent excessive use of force.

Officer Gus Horemis was charged on Sept. 21 with a felony in connection with the March 10 arrest of 21-year-old Sayyid Qadri. Officer Michael Yorty was indicted on charges of official misconduct, obstruction of justice and perjury.

Qadri has also filed a federal civil lawsuit on Sept. 2 against the officers, claiming video footage proves he was abused in a bathroom stall at the police station, 1454 Elmwood Ave., after a traffic stop.

EPD follows both a 20-page departmental general order and Illinois state law on the use of force, EPD Cmdr. Joe Bellino said.

The department policy says “physical force should not be resorted to unless other reasonable and safe alternatives have been exhausted or would clearly be ineffective under the particular circumstances.”

The Illinois statute says officers can use whatever force is necessary to effect arrest, and that a citizen cannot resist an arrest whether it is lawful or unlawful.

Additionally, officers are authorized to use deadly force when they believe either they or other people are in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death, Bellino said.

Much criticism against officers is because citizens disagree with police about when and how much force should be used, Bellino said.

“A lot of it is hinged on what an officer believes to be reasonable,” Bellino said.

Complaints about police misconduct are handled by the department’s Office of Professional Standards.

“We’re not going to ignore a citizen’s complaint,” Bellino said.

But attorneys for Qadri said they have evidence to show EPD does not handle citizen complaints properly.

When the Evanston case received media attention, the law firm representing Qadri received calls from other people claiming their complaints had not been addressed by the department, said attorney Jon Loevy, one of Qadri’s lawyers in his civil suit.

Qadri’s lawsuit also claimed that when he called EPD on March 12 to make a complaint, he first was told no one was there to take his call. The statement said Qadri called several more times before being told to meet an investigator at the EPD station.

Loevy criticized EPD for telling Qadri to come to the police station, where the incident allegedly occurred, to make his complaint, saying investigators should have gone to Qadri.

Bellino said he could not comment on the Qadri case or any other specific cases. He said it is standard practice for complainants to go to the police station to meet investigators.

In 2003, the last year for which data is available, charges of excessive use of force were the second most frequent citizen complaint against EPD, according to its annual report.

In total, citizens lodged 29 complaints against EPD. Nine were claims of excess force.

Charges of unprofessional conduct were the most frequent complaint, with 12 cases in 2003. Bellino said unprofessional conduct includes being disrespectful to citizens.

“A lot of it would fall under customer service issues,” Bellino said, like being rude to citizens or saying an officer didn’t show up after a call.

Many times those officers need extra training on interpersonal communication, he said.

Complaints were also filed for allegations of racial profiling, illegal searches and false arrests.

Seven of the total charges were sustained, meaning the allegations were supported by sufficient evidence.

Bellino said a fair amount of complaints come from citizens upset about how an officer treated them during a traffic stop or other minor infractions.

He also said the department conducts more internal reviews yearly than it receives citizen complaints. Police supervisors can cite officers for potential misconduct and then discipline them if found guilty.

“We try to run a tight ship in the fact that there’s a level of accountability that’s expected of the department,” Bellino said.

Lawyers for both sides said the officers’ criminal trial probably is at least a year away. And both sides said they are confident. Mark Loevy-Reyes, one of Qadri’s civil lawyers, said the federal civil suit could be delayed because of the pending criminal trial.

Yorty’s and Horemis’ lawyers both said that though the video footage caused media scrutiny, it is not enough to convict their clients because most of the alleged incident occurred in the bathroom stall, where there was no security camera.

“I have no problems with the tape,” said Yorty’s lawyer, Joe Roddy, when interviewed after the indictment. “In fact, it helps us.”

Horemis’ lawyer, Robert Clifford, called the tape “sensational” but said that legally, it won’t prove anything.

“The incident itself in that washroom is not on the tape,” Clifford said. “It was a portion of the overall incident.”

Qadri’s criminal background may also come into play, Roddy and Clifford said. In addition to having a previous arrest record, Qadri turned himself in on Oct. 4 for a Sept. 18 incident of assault, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass at the International House of Pancakes, 100 Asbury Ave. He is scheduled to appear Dec. 9 at Circuit Court in Skokie on those charges.

“People’s pasts come back to haunt them,” Clifford said.

But Loevy-Reyes said Qadri’s past actions should not affect jurors’ judgement of the officers.

“(The defense lawyers) seem to want to say that this excessive force is justified merely because of who an individual is,” he said.

Reach Alison Knezevich at [email protected].

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EPD supports policies on force