Elgin cop suspended 30 days for excessive force, will retire at 20 years

An Elgin police officer who used excessive force against a resident is being assigned to desk duty and will retire at the 20-year mark, which means he'll keep his pension.

Police launched an internal investigation a year ago after residents Bruce Benjamin and his ex-wife Kimberley Benjamin filed complaints saying that officer Paul Sharp choked and pressed his knee into Bruce Benjamin, causing a swollen cheek, in November 2015, according to records obtained by the Daily Herald via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Sharp agreed to a 30 working-day suspension, and to resigning on June 2, 2018, as per a disciplinary agreement dated Oct. 28. The investigation found that Sharp provided "untruthful" sworn testimony, and failed to write a report and fill out a use-of-force form about the incident.

Sharp will be assigned to permanent desk duty when he gets back to work Sunday, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said. Sharp had no prior discipline on his record, Swoboda said.

"We take this very seriously," Swoboda said. "This is a negotiated deal that ensures he is held accountable for his conduct, and there is an end to his working at the Elgin Police Department."

Sharp did not return requests for comment, including a message left with South Elgin Budokan Martial Arts, whose website lists him as a mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach.

Kimberley Benjamin said Friday she was glad to hear that Sharp agreed to retire in 2018. "I was in shock," she said of the incident. "I hope (Sharp) learns to control his temper, because he was so angry."

Sharp and officer David Lackey responded Nov. 23, 2015, to a call from Kimberley Benjamin, who reported that she wanted Bruce Benjamin to leave her house. Earlier that night, she had called police to report he had taken her car without permission. After Sharp and Lackey showed up, she decided to let Benjamin sleep on the couch.

At one point, Bruce Benjamin - who said he had been drinking - was on the couch, holding a cigarette, while Sharp was five or six feet away by the door. Bruce Benjamin pointed the cigarette at Sharp while telling him to "get the (expletive) out."

Sharp walked over to Bruce Benjamin, knocked the cigarette out of his hand, and put his knee on his chest, pressing him down on the couch, according to the Benjamins. That description was confirmed by Lackey, who also said he didn't see Sharp choke the resident.

However, when Sharp was interrogated during the investigation, he claimed Bruce Benjamin was "at arm's length" and waved in his face the cigarette, which Sharp considered "a weapon." Later, Sharp told investigators he didn't remember the call, which had taken place months before, very well.

Kimberley Benjamin said her ex-husband got a $5,000 check from the city earlier this week. The Benjamins failed to find a lawyer to represent them and had asked the city for $25,000 as compensation, she said.

Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley didn't immediately return a request for comment. Cogley has the authority "to make or approve settlements of lawsuits and controverted claims against or by the city up to $20,000," City Manager Rick Kozal said, citing the city's code.

Swoboda said police also reviewed the case with the state's attorney's office, which deemed no crime occurred.

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