Police Board to explain reversal of suspensions
BY CHARLES NICODEMUS Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter, 11/26/96
The Chicago Police Board disclosed Monday that it will prepare an unprecedented written explanation of why it rejected suspensions for two officers accused of using excessive force in the death of a mentally disturbed Humboldt Park man.
Responding to an uproar in the Hispanic community over the board's handling of an inquiry into the death of Jorge Guillen, 40, chairman Demetrius Carney said the board will prepare the written opinion within a week and a half.
The board ordinarily does not hold public sessions or issue written decisions on recommendations for suspensions of 30 days or less made by the police superintendent. ``Such matters normally are confidential,'' Carney said.
The Chicago Sun-Times disclosed last week that the department's Office of Professional Standards had recommended suspensions of 30, 25 and six days for the officers involved in the asphyxiation of Guillen while he was being subdued. Supt. Matt Rodriguez reduced the suspensions to 20, six and zero days, only to have the Police Board reject the suspensions.
``Because confidentiality is no longer an issue,'' Carney said, and because of ``the strong public concern voiced here, we will issue a written opinion.''
At a news conference earlier Monday, Hispanic leaders vowed to hold community hearings on police brutality and confront Police Board members at their Dec. 12 meeting with demands that they resign.
Latino leaders said the Police Board rejection of the proposed suspensions was an outrage that ``the Hispanic community cannot and will not accept. . . . It destroys all public trust in police.''
Guillen, a paranoid schizophrenic, was subdued by three Grand Central District officers Oct. 2, 1995, after they were called to his apartment because he was threatening his family.
A medical examiner's report described his asphyxiation death as homicide, apparently caused by pressure on his chest and neck applied by an officer who kneeled on his back and neck after Guillen was handcuffed hand and foot.
State Sen. Miguel del Valle and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said they would help organize public hearings to let others in the Hispanic community describe their mistreatment by police.
Chris Geovanis, of the Neighborhood Coalition Against Police Brutality, said members of her group will attend next month's Police Board hearing ``to confront them and demand that all [nine] of them resign.''
David Cerda, head of the Hispanic Lawyers Association, said his group will push for changes in Police Board procedures so that suspensions of 30 days or less will get public hearings.
Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) said he will pressure Ald. William M. Beavers (7th) to convene a long-delayed City Council Police and Fire Committee hearing Suarez has been seeking to question Rodriguez, OPS investigators and other officials about Guillen's death.
Bob Podgorny, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which helped defend the three officers, said, ``This was a very unfortunate incident.
``But these officers were confronted by a violent man, swinging a [5-foot long] 2-by-4, and they responded within police rules, guidelines and parameters. The Police Board action was proper.''
The Guillens' attorney, Jeffrey Haas, said newly available police documents show one detective ``manufactured false statements'' in an attempt to ``cover up the fact that police failed to try to revive Guillen once they saw he had stopped breathing.''
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