The Village Manager of Glenview has written a letter to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez demanding action after a year-long investigation into police officers accused of lying under oath in a Skokie court last year.
The two have collected nearly $250,000 salary while on paid leave as Alvarez continues what many have contended should have been a simple investigation.
During the trial of drug suspect Joseph Sperling, Cook County Judge Catherine Haberkorn declared that the two Glenview officers and three officers from Chicago lied about the circumstances under which drugs were found in Sperling’s car. The officers said Sperling stepped from his car after surrendering his license and volunteered information about a bag of marijuana. Squad car video clearly showed the officers handcuffing Sperling immediately after the stop before his car was searched.
"Obviously this is very outrageous conduct," Haberkorn said at the hearing, according to a transcript. "All officers lied on the stand today."
The case was thrown out of court, and after Sperling sued them, both cities settled with him for a combined $195,000. But 13 months after the fact, Alvarez says she is still investigating the matter, the Glenview officers remain on leave, and Village Manager Todd Hileman says his hands are tied until she completes her inquiry.
"We’ve played nice, but we really need an answer," Hileman said, noting that Alvarez asked the Glenview police not to conduct their own review of the matter until after hers was completed. "No explanation has been provided to us about what has taken so long."
Hileman said he would like to either restore the officers to street duty, or, if the investigation points to wrongdoing, dismiss them from the force. Right now, he can do neither.
A spokesman for Alvarez confirmed that the investigation is continuing, but said the office was trying to be thorough.
"While we always attempt to move cases along as quickly as possible, it is imperative that we take all of the time that is required to conduct complete and thorough investigations," Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly said in a statement, "particularly in matters involving potential police misconduct."
"This particular investigation has moved forward at a pace that has been necessary based upon the investigative work that has been required, and the additional evidence that has developed during the course of this probe," she wrote.
In his letter to the State’s Attorney, dated May 15, Hileman said it was his understanding that an investigative team’s report had been in her hands since October of last year.
"To date, despite repeated assurances that a decision will be forthcoming, we have not heard from you," he wrote. "This places an unreasonable burden on the taxpayers of Glenview."
The three Chicago officers have been assigned to administrative duty during the same period, at combined salaries of nearly $300,000.
Sperling’s attorney, Jon Loevy, says he likewise cannot understand why Alvarez would take so long to investigate what should have been a simple case.
"These police officers lied under oath. All five of them came up with the same story that was 100 percent false as proven by the videotape,” Loevy said. "This state’s attorney’s office under Anita Alvarez has been very quick to prosecute non-police officers for perjury, under very dubious circumstances."
Specifically, Loevy pointed to the case of Willie Johnson, who Alvarez charged with perjury after he attempted to recant previous testimony about a 1992 double homicide. Former Governor James Thompson was among more than 20 attorneys who spoke out against that prosecution, arguing it could "chill future recantations."
"If Anita Alvarez is going to use perjury prosecutions to try and intimidate recanters, it seems a double standard not to prosecute police officers who lie under oath," Loevy said. "It shouldn’t have taken more than a year to make a decision, either way."