Elgin hires firm to conduct independent investigation into police shooting

Elgin City Council members underscored the importance that an independent investigation into a fatal police shooting nearly a year ago include an examination of the department's policies and procedures.

The city council approved in a 7-1 vote Wednesday a contract with the firm Hillard Heintze, LLC, which will conduct the independent professional standards investigation into the death of resident Decynthia Clements, who was fatally shot March, 12, 2018, by Lt. Christian Jensen.

"If there is something that we're lacking and they point it out, then we have to improve," Councilwoman Rose Martinez said.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said she likes that Hillard Heintze's staff members include women, people of color, people with a law enforcement background and people with other backgrounds. "It's an impressive organization that does this kind of work all over the country," she said.

The only "no" vote came from Councilman Corey Dixon. After the meeting, Dixon said he fully supports having an independent, outside investigation into the police shooting, but would have wanted the city council to be involved in reviewing potential firms and making a final selection.

"A lot of them are run by former police officers, and it's hard as a police officer, sometimes, to be impartial in those types of decisions," Dixon said.

Hillard Heintze was founded by former Secret Service Agent Arnette Heintze and retired Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard.

The move by the city council comes after the Cook County state's attorney's office said last week it will not file criminal charges against Jensen, who fatally shot Clements along Interstate 90 after she had an hourlong standoff with officers. Police body camera video shows she came out of her vehicle holding a knife.

The investigation, estimated to cost $48,366, will include "review of all relevant information and interviews with all relevant parties with respect to the shooting incident and will address tactical decisions, officer conduct, supervision and adherence to policies and procedures in connection with the incident," according to a memo from Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley to the city council. There will be also "a comprehensive review of the policies and procedures of the Elgin Police Department regarding use of force, de-escalation, tactics, equipment, first-aid response, training and critical incident response and command and control."

Cogley said he, Police Chief Lalley and Deputy Chief Al Young requested proposals in the fall from three firms to conduct the outside investigation - Hillard Heintze, P4 Security Solutions/REM Management Services of Harwood Heights and OIR Group of Playa del Rey, California.

The work was done in preparation of any decision by the Cook County state's attorney's office, Lalley said.

Hillard Heintze previously conducted an assessment following a corruption and narcotics scandal in 2013 in Schaumburg. The firm is working with the San Francisco Police Department on improving community engagement in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting in 2015 in which officers were cleared of wrongdoing.

Several Elgin residents spoke Wednesday against allowing Jensen to return to work in Elgin. That included Pastor Carol Book of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, who said the city needs to "make a clear statement that we do things differently here in Elgin."

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