Student Catches Officer Parking in Handicapped Space

'He Didn't Look Disabled -- He Wasn't a Fat Cop,' Student Says

PALOS HEIGHTS -- A Cook County sheriff's officer who parked his squad car in a disabled parking space was busted Wednesday by a teenage photographer who caught him in the act.


Shepard High School senior Steven Hord, 17, used his cell phone to snap four pictures of the unwitting cop after he pulled into the marked spot nearest an entrance to the Palos Heights school Wednesday at lunchtime.

"I couldn't believe it - there were regular spots empty just 20 feet away, but he stopped in the handicapped spot," Hord said. "At least 20 of us saw it, including my teacher.

"He didn't look disabled -- he wasn't a fat cop, he wasn't a skinny cop -- he just looked fit."

The officer's casual demeanor as he strolled into the school and struck up a friendly conversation with a security guard suggested he wasn't responding to a 911 call, Hord said.

"If I or anyone else had done that, we'd get a $200 ticket," he said. "There are students doing driver's education classes here, and I don't think it sets a good example."

Cook County sheriff's police spokeswoman Penny Mateck said the officer was responding to a call from the school after a student was found with a pocketknife on his key chain.

"He wasn't threatening anyone, but it was a breach of school policy," she said. "It wasn't an emergency, and officers are required to follow laws just like anyone else, so our Office of Professional Review has opened an investigation."

As of Wednesday evening, the officer had not been suspended, she said.

The incident prompted criticism from advocates for the disabled.

Bill Bogdan, who works as a disability liaison for the Illinois secretary of state's office, said abuse of disabled parking spaces is a common problem and that it wasn't the first time he'd heard of police taking advantage of their position like this.

Shepard Principal Ty Harting declined to comment.

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