Should Elgin fire officer in fatal I-90 shooting? Issue divides council candidates

  • Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen, left, is pictured in police body camera video after he shot Decynthia Clements along Interstate 90 on March 12, 2018.

    Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen, left, is pictured in police body camera video after he shot Decynthia Clements along Interstate 90 on March 12, 2018. Image taken from video, 2018

 
 
Updated 3/14/2019 6:17 AM

Three candidates running for Elgin City Council say a police officer who fatally shot a woman a year ago should be fired, while the other seven either said they will stand by the results of a pending internal investigation or reserved judgment until that report is completed.

Councilwoman Tish Powell and challengers Anthony Ortiz and Dustin Good said Lt. Christian Jensen -- who last month was cleared of wrongdoing by the Cook County state's attorney's office -- should be fired after shooting Decynthia Clements on March 12, 2018. The city hired an outside firm to look into whether Jensen violated any police department policies or procedures.

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There are five open seats in the April 2 election. Good, Ortiz, Fred Moulton and incumbents Powell, John Steffen, Rose Martinez and Toby Shaw are running for four 4-year seats. Baldemar Lopez, Steve Thoren and Jerri McCue are running for a 2-year seat.

The candidates aired their views during an election forum last month and in interviews with the Daily Herald.

Good praised the police department for using body cameras and said he sympathizes with the pressures and dangers of law enforcement. However, the city council's job is to represent the community, "and my community doesn't want him (Jensen) back on the police force," he said.

Ortiz pointed out police officers discussed using nonlethal weapons before Jensen fired three shots. "If there are plans in place for that individual not to be shot, then that individual should not have been shot," he said.

"I wouldn't want this guy back," Ortiz added. "He lost the trust of this city."

Powell said she supports the police department but believes Jensen should be fired.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We have built some very strong bridges with the community with community policing. I am not willing to throw away all the work and the progress we've made in this community by making the wrong decision," she said. "It's a matter of judgment and accountability."

Others had different takes. Moulton, who called the police video "disturbing," pointed out an Illinois State Police report to be released in the next few weeks is bound to reveal new details about the shooting.

Steffen and Shaw said they, too, want to view the state police report and the results of the internal investigation before making up their minds. "To make an opinion now without having all that information, I think is risky," Shaw said.

McCue said she has "empathy for both sides" but it's hard to question Jensen's actions "without having been there." The decision ultimately is up to City Manager Rick Kozal and Police Chief Ana Lalley, she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lopez said Elgin has an "exemplary" police department, but Jensen coming back "would create some issues and ultimately even a wedge." Any final decision should take into account the community's feelings, Lopez said.

Thoren and Martinez said they will stand by the results of the internal investigation.

"If it is found that he (Jensen) did something against the procedures of the Elgin Police Department, then he shouldn't have a job," Martinez said. "But if he followed everything, I don't think there is a reason why he shouldn't come back."

Thoren called himself "the biggest supporter of blue" and said that, if terminated, Jensen could file a lawsuit against the city.

Clements' family has a pending federal lawsuit alleging her civil rights were violated.

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