Attorney: Suspending Officers Was Rush To Judgment
CHICAGO (CBS) – Two Chicago Police officers are taking their boss to court, accusing Supt. Jody Weis of slander after they were accused and later cleared in a brutality investigation.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the officers, Lynn Meuris and Jason Vanna, are each seeking $300,000 from the Police Department. They claim they were defamed, and their reputations were wrongfully tarnished, and they say Weis owes them an apology.
The officers say they were wrongfully blamed for playing a role in the beating of a handcuffed suspect earlier this month at 79th Street and Vincennes Avenue.
Internal officers say the suspect was beaten by a sergeant, while four other officers stood by and did nothing.
The officers claim Weis slandered them at an Oct. 15 news conference about police misconduct involving brutality, according to a the suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court. Weis did not name the officers at the news conference.
Minutes after the press conference, a commanding officer called Meuris and Vanna and told them to report immediately to the Gresham District with their police star, shield and identification, according to the report.
The suit claims they were met by a sergeant, placed in a marked police car in the presence of their coworkers and taken to Chicago Police Headquarters, where they were escorted through the front entrance past a group of reporters and news cameras and to the Internal Affairs Division, where they were officially stripped of their police powers.
Meuris and Vanna were told they would be assigned to administrative duty, but because the paperwork had not yet been completed that they would have to use their compensatory time until the reassignment was finalized, according to the suit.
On Oct. 18, Weis held another press conference where he said the allegations were taken “very seriously” and “there’s just no room for any type of brutality,” according to the suit. The suit lists four other defamatory statements allegedly made by Weis, who at the time already had evidence that proved Meuris and Vanna were not at the scene, the suit said.
Even though the officers were reinstated once evidence showed they weren’t involved, their attorney says the damage is done.
“There should be steps taken to ensure innocent individuals do not have their personal and professional lives destroyed, because somebody wants to have a quick Friday night press conference,” said attorney Daniel Herbert.
He said “absolutely” when asked if the disciplinary actions against the officers represented a “rush to judgment.”
Meuris and Vanna are seeking more than $150,000 in compensatory and $150,000 in punitive damages from Weis and the City of Chicago.
The other five officers implicated in the brutality investigation remain on paid leave.
The Police Department declined to comment on pending litigation.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.