Decynthia Clements' death: Elgin council discusses cop's fate in closed session

  • Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen has been on administrative leave since the March 12 shooting of Decynthia Clements.

    Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen has been on administrative leave since the March 12 shooting of Decynthia Clements.

  • Seen here in a July meeting, Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin, right, said Lt. Christian Jensen, who fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements last year, should come back to work.

      Seen here in a July meeting, Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin, right, said Lt. Christian Jensen, who fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements last year, should come back to work. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen has been on administrative leave since the March 12 shooting of Decynthia Clements.

    Elgin police Lt. Christian Jensen has been on administrative leave since the March 12 shooting of Decynthia Clements.

 
 
Updated 8/13/2019 6:29 PM

Elgin City Council members said they discussed in closed session the fate of a police lieutenant who fatally shot a woman, but only four of them are stating their opinion in public.

The city is expected to announce a decision soon about the employment of Lt. Christian Jensen, who has been on paid leave since he killed resident Decynthia Clements on March 12, 2018. The Cook County state's attorney cleared Jensen in February, and in July a consultant hired by the city said Jensen was justified in using deadly force.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Council members Tish Powell and Corey Dixon have long said Jensen should be fired.

Council members Toby Shaw and Terry Gavin told the Daily Herald that, based on the results of the two investigations, Jensen should be allowed to come back to work.

"This has been challenging ... but we need to use reason," Shaw said.

"We do not have a legal reason for dismissing Lt. Jensen," Gavin said.

Mayor David Kaptain and council members Carol Rauschenberger, Baldemar Lopez and Rose Martinez said the decision is up to Police Chief Ana Lalley and City Manager Rick Kozal.

Councilman John Steffen said last week he was not ready to cast his opinion because he was still reviewing body camera video from officers on the scene, as well as the six complaints -- none sustained after internal review -- filed by residents against Jensen during his 19 years on the job. Steffen did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

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Clements had a standoff with police along Interstate 90. When she set her vehicle on fire, officers moved in to rescue her, and she came out of the vehicle holding two knives. Jensen fired his gun and another officer fired his Taser.

The report by consultant Hillard Heinze found that Jensen violated policy by turning off his body camera twice -- it was on during the shooting -- and by not calling an ambulance as soon as he realized Clements was having a serious mental health episode and not giving medical assistance immediately after she was shot.

Powell pointed to police department policy that "officers hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life, dignity and liberty of all persons." "This is not the level of judgment and discretion that Elgin should expect from a command-level officer with 20 years of policing experience," Powell said. "We must and can do better."

Dixon said Jensen displayed questionable decision-making and bringing him back would be detrimental to the relationship between police and the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kaptain said it's not fair to the police chief for council members to publicly state their views. The police chief will make a recommendation and the city manager has final say.

Employment decisions are not up to the council, Martinez said. "People are trying to make this political," she said.

Rauschenberger said she hopes Clements' death with prompt the police department to be better trained, revisit deadly force standards and "continue to implement a variety of measures to support citizens with psychological needs."

Police missed opportunities to de-escalate the situation, particularly because they were aware of a previous suicidal call involving Clements, Lopez said. "There was no need for this to lead to the person's death, in my mind," Lopez said.

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