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We admit our bias in concluding that Forest Park police can be Taser-happy, that the department has an earned reputation over decades of sometimes abusing suspects. The police department and the village administration object to our conclusions and see it as evidence of our disdain for the department. Sometimes, when they are being more fair in their assessments, they will acknowledge past problems but swear those days are well in the past.
And then another case comes along, another charge of police brutality, a remarkable instance of tazing a person seven times in under a minute, a lawsuit and a guilty verdict against three officers.
We are prepared to be outraged but instead we come to the conclusion that in this particular instance that Forest Park police have likely been victimized by an unfair verdict and that three officers not only risked injury in attempting to contain an out-of-control drunk but have now had their reputations tarnished by a jury.
This case involves, not surprisingly, a massively inebriated Madison Street bar patron who tore up that bar. Disturbingly that patron was an off-duty Chicago cop. What followed certainly has unproveable aspects though the preponderance of witness testimony Ð cops, bar patrons, paramedics, hospital personnel Ð all point to an enraged and hepped up suspect without control of his actions.
We are persuaded by a detailed and earnest written accounting of that long March evening in 2008 by one of the cops involved, Sgt. Pete Morrissette. His conclusion that his otherwise sterling 16 year career as a Forest Park cop has now been undercut by this verdict is likely true. Verdicts have consequences though it seems he retains the faith of his command structure.
The challenge for Forest Park is how in a town of bars and end of the line el stops with their drunks and their drugged up perpetrators do you find that balance between controlling a situation and potential for abuse. We are not saying it is easy. We are saying it is the reality of policing in Forest Park.
And right or wrong, Forest Park cops have to prove that balance every day. This day we give the department and its officers the benefit of the doubt.