Elgin begins 'talking as a city' after police shooting

  • Interim Police Chief Bill Wolf, top, answers a question Saturday morning during a small group discussion at The Centre of Elgin, while Sgt. Eric Echevarria, bottom, and others listens.

      Interim Police Chief Bill Wolf, top, answers a question Saturday morning during a small group discussion at The Centre of Elgin, while Sgt. Eric Echevarria, bottom, and others listens. Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

  • More than 120 community members attended a "community conversation" at The Centre of Elgin Saturday in which officials outlined investigative process and next steps in the death of DeCynthia Clements, 34, who was shot and killed by Elgin police on March 12.

      More than 120 community members attended a "community conversation" at The Centre of Elgin Saturday in which officials outlined investigative process and next steps in the death of DeCynthia Clements, 34, who was shot and killed by Elgin police on March 12. Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/3/2018 10:10 PM

More than 115 people attended a forum Saturday in Elgin to learn more about the next steps after the March 12 fatal police shooting of DeCynthia Clements and to suggest ways the department could improve.

Billed as a "community conversation," police and city officials stressed they were there to listen and begin a dialogue.

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The Illinois State Police are investigating the circumstances that led Elgin police Lt. Chris Jensen to use lethal force against Clements after a chase and hourlong negotiation. State police will turn over findings to the Cook County state's attorney's office (the shooting occurred in the Cook County portion of Elgin).

Elgin interim Police Chief Bill Wolf said the Illinois State Police will collect facts and evidence and present those to the Cook County state's attorney's office, which will decide if charges are pursued.

"We will not receive a copy of that report. It will not go public. It will go to the Cook County state's attorney's office (for review)," Wolf said.

Wolf said the state's attorney's office would consider if there were evidence to file criminal charges.

If no charges result, the state police report will still be turned over to Elgin police, which can opt to hold its own investigation, Wolf said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Any internal investigation likely would be done by an outside agency hired by the city, he said, and a final decision would be made by the police chief and the city's legal department on officer discipline.

Wolf cited as an example the Elgin police shooting in March 2012 when a suspect escaped while being taken to Rolling Meadows for a bond hearing and was wounded by an officer. No criminal charges were filed against the officer, but the department later determined the officer violated policies and the person was fired, Wolf said.

Wolf said the state police have not given the city a timeline in the Clements shooting, but most investigations into fatal shootings take three to four months.

Recent history suggests it could take longer. In May 2017, a Kane County SWAT team fatally shot a man who had taken nurses hostage at Delnor Hospital in Geneva. The Kane County state's attorney's office received the state police report in April 2018 and is still reviewing it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Relatives of Clements and community members have protested her death, saying police should have used nonlethal force.

Saturday, attendees had small group discussions about how the department could improve. Some, such as Clements' cousin Demetrius Smith, were skeptical of the investigation, saying police would lie and cover for themselves and should be more truthful.

Others, such as Danise Habun, who also is on the city's Human Relations Commission, said community members have been "talking" for years about how to improve policing but just scratch the surface. Habun said she believes city council members are "deeply committed" to improving the department.

"(Clements') death has to mean something," Habun said.

Mayor David Kaptain said city leaders wanted to provide public information about the Clements investigation timeline so everyone was on the same page. Kaptain said one of his concerns is having the city respond with timely -- and accurate -- information to stop the spread of misinformation or rumors on social media.

Kaptain noted the information from officer body cameras was invaluable for the investigation, but while it's one mechanism to increase accountability, it's far from perfect.

"We're talking about this as a city. It's a process for us," said Mayor David Kaptain. "Are we as a city perfect? No. If the police department perfect? Of course not. We're not perfect -- because we're people."

City officials pledged to hold another conversation after the state police report came out.

"This is the beginning of many conversations, and we're not afraid to step out in front and be leaders in this national debate," said City Manager Rick Kozal.

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