Investigation of pepper spray incident nearing end

Investigation of pepper spray incident nearing end

CHAMPAIGN — Police say they are nearing the end of their new investigation of a June 2011 arrest after the city council denied hiring an outside consultant to do the work.

But it could still be weeks before a final determination is made.

City officials on Monday reiterated at a meeting of a group called the Champaign Community and Police Partnership that, despite three previous reviews of the Brandon Ward arrest, there exists no thorough record of what actually happened after the then-19-year-old was stopped for jaywalking.

"As thoroughly as we can, we've interviewed every witness we could get a hold of, every officer that had involvement," acting Deputy Chief Jon Swenson said.

The new, internal review was made necessary by this month's city council denial of hiring an independent expert to do the work at a cost of $85,000. A citizen complaint against the officer is still pending after an appeal, however, and city policy requires that City Manager Steve Carter make a decision.

Carter has said he needs the information that a detailed investigation would provide to make that decision.

"This is the city manager's attempt to make sure that there is a complete and thorough examination" of what happened during the arrest, said Dorothy David, assistant city manager.

Leaked dashboard video footage shows Officer Patrick Simons attempting to stop Ward apparently for jaywalking at the intersection of Fourth and Green streets during the early morning hours of a Sunday.

Simons pepper sprays Ward after bringing him back to the squad car. Simons later grabs at Ward's neck while he is in the back seat.

Ward was later cleared of any charges, and a citizen complaint against Simons followed the arrest. City officials have expressed concern that none of the witnesses listed on the complaint were ever contacted by investigators.

Swenson said he expects the report to be on Carter's desk by the end of this week, but Carter is out of the office for the next two weeks. He will also need time to review the anticipated hundreds of pages of investigative documents, David said.

An investigative report consisting of hundreds of pages' worth of documentation would be a contrast from previous reports by the state police and the FBI, which have been as short as one sentence.

Ed Bland, the director of the Housing Authority of Champaign County and a member of the community and police partnership, said he's looking forward to closing the case, which has stirred emotions among police officers and community members for months.

"I think we need to close a chapter and just move on," Bland said.

David reminded the group that the coming report could also include recommendations for the broader picture — like how to improve the use-of-force policy or the citizen complaint process following what Carter has called an incomplete investigation of the incident.

"Part of moving forward is learning your lessons," David said.

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itsme wrote on February 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

Were going to continue to have these type of problems until we get to the root of this. My recommendation is get rid of the whole dept and hire new officers. From watching that video looks like we have a rogue cop on the force .

personali wrote on February 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Your comment ITSME has to be one of the worst I have ever read.  Ok, so let’s fire the entire department of approximately 120 and hire all new; great idea mastermind.

CJ Williams wrote on February 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

Whoa-------------- I thought that the CM needed 85k to do this?  You mean he and Tommy B didnt really need to spend this money? No kidding.  Wow who would have thought that out.   As for the previous posters comments.  Yeah, we also need to have our citizens NOT do burglaries, robberies, polar bear bashing too, but we do NOT see the Mayor calling for an end to that now do we?

Uh huh wrote on February 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

The root of the problem would be people thinking they can do whatever they want, whenever they want with no respect for themselves, other people, or authority.  When you figure out how to get law breakers to start doing the right thing, let us all know.

Champaign Co. Firecracker wrote on February 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

The root of the problem is the Officer who is not diciplined enough to irngore a citzen who is irritated that he is stopped and seekeing an explaination as to his detention. The fact that the officer was able to lead him back to the patrol car was a clear indication that he was in control of the situation and the citzen was complying with with his commands but at the same time trying to understand the reason for the stop. I don't get were you people think a person detained by the police with there hands in the air warrants being pepper sprayed. It's not against the law to use profanity and vent your frustrations to an officer because you feel you are unjustly targeted. It's called feedom of speech folks! 

CJ Williams wrote on February 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Tell  you what... do your freedom of speech in a court room .  See how many days you get for swearing at a judge. Same thing applies here.   You are not allowed to swear at an officer to the point of being disorderly.  

scollins4443 wrote on February 29, 2012 at 9:02 am
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Seems to me that anyone who watched the long version of that video, didn't count 5-6 jaywalkers on camera. Then what the people are doing in the background. The thing I am trying to say is, "The totality of the video is that the police were after a that group of people. They were watched for a couple of blocks and followed. Even the radio transmittions can tell you that. Then the man with the broken nose, how he jestured for the police to roll!  In all, this is all bad public relations. All police aren't bad, I know quite a many good ones. I would like to see all of the agencies who investigated the incident tell me that they wouldn't mind being treated like that, if they were a civilian! You can even see the police use his vehicle in a way that he almost hit the other man walking in the crosswalk. That's what disturbs me. I just hope the police learned something here about peoples' rights and to be treated with respect.