By Nona Tepper
Forest Park police have launched an internal investigation of Officer Scott McClintock, after he slapped a Chicago woman who allegedly spit on him. A Chicago resident who witnessed the incident posted about it on the nonprofit Suburban Unity Alliance Facebook page, where the post received more than 75 reactions.
"The officer hit her in the face. Hard enough to make her fall [on] the ground," Laura Cochran Hyde posted on social media. "She started screaming and crying and he told her that she tried to spit in his face, which she denied."
Cochran Hyde wrote that she posted about the incident on social media "to bring awareness to the community." She declined to comment to the Review.
"Social media is both good and bad. I just sometimes wish people would, especially with something like this, you put it out and people don't know the facts yet. So people are trying to make a judgment before any facts are known whatsoever and sometimes that can cause problems," said Forest Park Police Chief Thomas Aftanas. "But that's why we do internal investigations; we try and get to the bottom of it and make the right decision and that's what's going to occur here."
McClintock was sitting in his squad car at the CVS parking lot at Harlem and Circle in Forest Park about 1:10 p.m. on April 13 when he heard over dispatch about a theft at The Gap nearby in Oak Park, according to a Forest Park police report. He made his way over to the clothing store, where a Gap loss prevention associate waved him down, saying he saw the thief fleeing north on Harlem Avenue.
McClintock drove north and spotted the Chicago woman, 17, at the intersection of Harlem and Ontario avenues in Oak Park. A River Forest officer also responded to the scene. McClintock asked the woman to stop walking. Instead she picked up the pace. McClintock grabbed the sleeve of her coat and attempted to pull her back to the sidewalk. She resisted and told McClintock that she already gave the items she stole back to "the man," according to the police report.
McClintock leaned the woman against a short concrete wall and attempted to handcuff her. She said he needed a female officer to handcuff and touch her. After handcuffing the woman, McClintock asked if she had anything else on her person. He saw a bulge in her jacket pocket and reached in, finding a cellphone.
The woman allegedly then spit on McClintock's face.
"I immediately reached up with an open right hand in [an] attempt to block her from spitting at me again. I made contact with her mouth and left cheek," McClintock wrote in the police report. "I told her not to spit at me. I then took the hood from her jacket and pulled it over the top of her head and covered her face to keep her from spitting at or on me again."
McClintock then grabbed her right sleeve and forced her to the ground.
The woman was charged with retail theft and aggravated battery, according to an Oak Park police report. The report also noted that, "when the Forest Park officer instructed the subject to stop, she spit on his right cheek."
Aftanas said that, if he was driving by and saw a woman get slapped, "of course" he would notice it. He said that the department is currently conducting an internal investigation by interviewing the River Forest officer who was at the incident, McClintock, Cochran Hyde, and the woman who was arrested. He estimated that the investigation would take about a month.
Aftanas said the department has not found any clear video of the footage of the incident, but that audio exists where you can hear McClintock telling the woman not to spit on him. The Review has submitted a Freedom of Information Action request for the audio but Forest Park police did not immediately respond to the request. He said McClintock was still out on patrol.
If the internal investigation reveals that, "the officer, hypothetically, hits someone for no reason whatsoever, chances are you're going to be terminated," Aftanas said.
He encouraged other witnesses to come forward.
This isn't the first time McClintock has made news.
Forest Park paid $54,900 to settle a federal lawsuit against McClintock and the village in November 2018. In the suit, Forest Park resident Tyrone Roney alleged that McClintock "physically attacked" and knocked his teeth out over a landlord dispute in 2015. The village and McClintock did not admit liability or wrongdoing, according to the terms of the settlement.
There are three lawsuits currently pending against the village. Aftanas said this is the only internal investigation the department is currently conducting.
"I wish I knew," he said, why Forest Park police have been involved in so many cases. Aftanas, along with other village officials, have previously asserted that the village and police have a reputation for settling complaints, which makes them an easy target for those looking to make cash from a lawsuit.
"I can tell you that the officers aren't going out and stopping people and roughing people up," he said. "It's unfortunate but, you know, if something is not on video or not on audio and somebody makes up an allegation or embellishes a little bit, you can file a lawsuit and the lawsuits go to court and they're very expensive to go to trial, and that's why it's very common to settle some of these cases."