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.