The Chicago police officer captured on video in an altercation with a woman at North Avenue Beach was suspended for two days in 2014 after a Polish-speaking couple filed a complaint alleging that he told the husband "you should speak English" as the man struggled to understand him during a traffic stop, newly released records show.
NBC 5 Investigates obtained reports, victim statements and other documentation of the complaint from the Chicago Police Department on Thursday via Freedom of Information Act request.
The complaint is one of three against the officer that were sustained, out of a total of 27 complaints filed against him between 2000 and 2018, a review of multiple databases found. NBC 5 is not naming the officer because he has not been publicly identified or charged with any wrongdoing.
One of CPD's internal reports on the 2014 incident says that a 59-year-old man filed the complaint after he alleged the officer was "rude and unprofessional" and "disrespected" the man's "difficulties to communicate in English" during a traffic stop.
Through an interpreter, the man relayed to investigators that he was pulled over for speeding on May 16, 2014, and the officer spoke to him in English, which he had trouble understanding. The officer asked how long the man had been in the U.S., according to the man and his wife, who was in the passenger seat.
When the man told the officer his answer, the couple said he responded, "That's bulls--- you have been in this country for so long, you should speak English."
In his interview with investigators, the officer denied making that comment, saying he instead replied, "I don't understand why you would have difficulty understanding me when you have been here so long."
The couple said the officer also removed a Fraternal Order of Police medallion on their car as they told him repeatedly "[redacted] is a Chicago Police Officer."
The officer said "that he doesn't give a s--- that [redacted] is a Police Officer," the man told investigators. The officer, in his interview, denied making that statement as well and said he removed the medallion because it indicated that the vehicle is owned by an officer and "could be considered impersonating the police."
The officer did admit that he did not inventory the medallion, in violation of department policy.
The complaint against the officer contained two allegations: the first of disrespect to or maltreatment of a person, the second of failure to inventory and process recovered property.
Both allegations against the officer were sustained and he was suspended for two days, records show.
That complaint was the third sustained complaint against the officer, records show.
Prior to the 2014 incident, the officer was previously suspended for 20 days from a sustained complaint against him stemming from a 2008 arrest for pointing his gun at someone during a domestic incident while off duty in Tennessee, according to records from the Independent Police Review Authority, Chicago’s police oversight agency at the time.
The officer was also the subject of a lawsuit in 2017, when a junk collector sued the officer and the city of Chicago, alleging the officer falsely arrested him during a traffic stop the year before and charged him with unlawful use of a weapon based on tools in his car that he used for work. The charge against the junk collector was dismissed and the city settled the lawsuit for $15,000 with no admission of guilt.
Attorneys for Nikkita Brown said she was walking her dog near North Avenue Beach at around 12:12 a.m. on Aug. 28, after the lakefront was closed to the public, when the officer approached her.
On Thursday, Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability also released, via public records request, bodycam and surveillance videos of the incident, shedding new light on the altercation.
In the footage from the officer's body-worn camera, the officer can be heard telling Brown to leave the area.
"You are trespassing on city property and you will go to jail if you don’t take your dog and leave," the officer can be heard saying as she repeatedly tells him to "back up."
"I’m about to put handcuffs on you if you don’t keep walking," he continues. "Do you want to test me on this?"
She tells him again to "back up" and the officer then grabs Brown by the hand. She repeatedly screams for him to let go of her as the two physically struggle.
Separate footage from police surveillance cameras in the area show the incident from other angles, as well as the moments leading up to the encounter.
Prior to the altercation with Brown, one video shows a couple walking toward the lakefront before the officer appears to speak with them briefly from inside his vehicle and they turn around. Brown can be seen in the background of that video, walking along the beach.
The officer then drives over to a group of four people walking on the beach several paces behind Brown. That group stops, speaks with the officer and walks away from the lakefront as the officer then drivers toward Brown.
Another surveillance camera shows the officer pulling up in his vehicle to speak with Brown, who appears to turn away from him twice to keep walking a few steps south along the beach. The officer drives closer to her and gets out of his vehicle, the video shows. Brown starts to film him with her cell phone as he moves toward her and the incident, at this point now also being captured on his body camera, escalates.
Attorneys for Brown, who is Black, called the encounter an “unprovoked attack” and an “obvious case of racial profiling,” saying she was emotionally traumatized by the confrontation.
COPA said on Aug. 29 that it was investigating the incident, recommending that Supt. David Brown relieve the officer of his police powers or place him on administrative duties pending the results of the investigation. Brown placed him on administrative duties that day.