Elgin poised to hire new law firm to investigate police misconduct

Elgin poised to hire new law firm to investigate police misconduct

Elgin City Council members decided last summer they wanted to remove even the appearance of a conflict of interest whenever an investigation into possible misconduct by Elgin police is needed. On Wednesday night, council members set up a new process that will get them most of what they are looking for.

The city council has debated various police department reforms since the fatal police shooting of resident Decynthia Clements in 2018. The city hired the law firm Hillard Heintze to investigate that shooting. That selection drew criticism because the firm was founded by a former Secret Service agent and a retired Chicago police superintendent.

Council members also learned the person in charge of investigating complaints against city employees is Jim Barnes, a retired Elgin police sergeant. A vote in June stripped Barnes of the authority to investigate complaints against police officers. City officials have sought an outside entity to conduct those investigations ever since.

A request for proposals went out. Three companies responded. A three-person panel of city staff reviewing the proposals, which included police Chief Ana Lalley, recommended hiring the law firm of Ottosen DiNolfo Hasenbalg & Castaldo Ltd. The firm, like the other two companies that expressed interest, has an employee who is a former member of law enforcement.

With pending investigations awaiting, including one into the recent DUI arrest of Elgin Detective Jessica Lori DeLeon, city council members indicated they are willing to give the law firm a try to prevent further delays. Doing so will require the city council to amend the ordinance they passed in June to make an exception for the law firm.

Various council members suggested making any deal with the firm no longer than three years to allow for a replacement if necessary. The employee of the firm with a law enforcement background will not be involved in any Elgin investigations, according to the terms of the deal.

The city council must take one more vote before the agreement is final.

Published at Wed, 13 Jan 2021 15:57:00 +0000

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