Cops & Crime: Suburban chiefs hope to reduce officers' use of force

Police officers' use of force remains in the headlines across the country and in the suburbs, including Wednesday when authorities say an Aurora teen shot himself to death after exchanging gunfire with an officer.

Last week, chiefs from four suburbs got together to talk about ways to reduce the use of force and be more responsive when it occurs.

Naperville Chief Robert Marshall, Elgin Chief Jeff Swoboda, Darien Chief Greg Thomas (formerly the Aurora chief), Hazel Crest Chief Mitchell Davis III and criminal justice professor Michael Scott were panelists for “Legitimacy and Use of Force” at the Illinois Problem-Oriented Policing Conference in Naperville.

Marshall said his department “did a deep dive” into its practices after the release of the “Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing” in 2015. They found use-of-force reviews took too long and involved too much paperwork. And reviewers included managers who had not used force in at least six years. Now, line officers take part in the review, along with dispatchers.

Elgin now tracks any time an officer even shows a weapon, including a stun gun, Swoboda said. They city compiles data every time force is used, including the race, age and sex of the officers and people involved and how long the officer has been a cop.

A matter of race?

Hazel Crest's Davis - the only black member of the panel - talked about racial bias, perceived or real. He said twice last week civilians asked him if officers are conditioned to shoot at black people because targets at gun ranges are black.

“It's ludicrous, but we have to address that,” Davis said. He also pointed out the target silhouettes aren't always black.

All the chiefs agreed officers need more training on anticipating risky situations, de-escalating conflict, using defensive physical tactics and being more physically fit. “I don't want more cops unless there is money for more training,” Swoboda said.

Not guilty

On Thursday, Mount Prospect police Sgt. Anthony Lietzow was found not guilty of charges filed after a domestic disturbance in his Huntley home last year.

Mount Prospect police Sgt. Anthony Lietzow was found not guilty by a McHenry County jury Thursday of charges filed after a domestic disturbance at his Huntley home last year.

Jurors deliberated about an hour before acquitting Lietzow, 45, of aggravated battery to a peace officer and resisting arrest. The 11-year department veteran also faced domestic battery and aggravated domestic battery charges stemming from the disturbance, but those were dismissed.

The four-day trial centered around whether Lietzow physically accosted Huntley police officers who entered his home in the early morning of July 19, 2015, to investigate reports of a domestic battery.

Lietzow testified Wednesday that he berated the officers but did not get physical with them.

“I suspect the jury didn't find that he did anything intentional, nothing that was a crime,” Lietzow attorney Phil Prossnitz said.

Though the finding means Lietzow remains a free man, it remains to be seen whether he'll keep his job. Mount Prospect police officials continue to conduct an internal investigation of Lietzow, who was named the department's officer of the year in 2005, 2007 and 2009. He's been on leave since his arrest.

“He loves his job and he's good at it, but that's a decision to be made by his department,” Prossnitz said.

Grisly find still a mystery

DANN GIRE/, 2010Arlington Heights police say they're still investigating the grisly 2010 discovery of a man's lower body stuffed in a garbage bag behind an apartment building. The same man's upper body was found weeks later along the Des Plaines River. His identity remains a mystery.

In April 2010, Arlington Heights police responded to a 911 call about “a piece of trash emitting a foul odor” behind an apartment complex. They found a man's lower body parts stuffed into a black garbage bag alongside a dumpster.

Weeks later, the same man's upper body was found about 5 miles away along the Des Plaines River in the Lions Woods forest preserve.

Despite the efforts of investigators over the years, they still don't know who the man was or what happened to him.

“We carry it as a cold case and review it regularly,” said Cmdr. Nathan Hayes of the Arlington Heights Police Department's Criminal Investigations Bureau. “As leads have come in over the years we've looked into them, but none have borne any fruit to this point.”

Because of the condition of the remains, police haven't been able to put out a photo of the man or come up with an image of what he might have looked like when alive. It's been “several years” since investigators received a viable lead, Hayes said.

Among the few clues: three tattoos on the man's lower body. Two are the joker-like masks known as “Smile Now Cry Later,” one on each side of the man's pelvis. Investigators also found a 1-inch letter “C” just above his right knee.

Bogus citations, part 2

Following up on last week's item about a Naperville teen sending out phony tollway citations, North Aurora police recently warned residents that someone is handing out fake parking tickets in their town.

The notices indicate the vehicles could be towed and that the owners would have to appear in court unless they paid a fee of $173.74 over the phone.

Police say the documents don't look like real tickets, which would have the village's name and the issuing officer's badge number on them. And the village doesn't take payment by telephone.

Again, people: Be suspicious, and check things out before forking over your money.

Meet your police

Wheeling police will host a “Coffee with a Cop” from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday at Dunkin' Donuts, 749 N. Milwaukee Ave. Geneva police will do the same from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at McDonald's, 1812 S. Randall Road.

End of shift

Woodridge Police Chief Gina Grady retired Sept. 28, ending a 30-year career that she began as a patrol officer in the village. Among her commendations: a national Medal of Valor Award for placing herself in the line of fire to protect another officer during a drug buy. Those actions earned her the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association's Medal of Valor in 1993.

Women's Safety Series

Lake in the Hills police will host their third annual Women's Safety Series beginning next week. The free three-week series teaches women (17 years and older) defensive tactics, social media safety and personal safety, and deals with topics such as domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and drugs/alcohol abuse.

It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 12, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 19 and 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26. The class is limited to 20 participants. Email or to reserve a seat.

Got a tip? Have a question? Please email Charles Keeshan and Susan Sarkauskas at, or call our tip line at (847) 427-4483.

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