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Chicago supt. to take 'hard, close look' at excessive force case

By Frank Main
The Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO — New Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis will take a "hard, close look" at taking further action against an officer suspended after a surveillance camera captured him beating a man handcuffed and shackled to a wheelchair, a police spokeswoman says.

Officer William J. Cozzi is one of three officers who pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor battery for beating people in 2005. Surveillance cameras recorded each of the separate incidents.

Cozzi, 50, is scheduled to return to work in April after completing a suspension.

The matter is "a concern" for Weis, an FBI veteran who takes office as superintendent Feb. 1 and has vowed to crack down on police misconduct, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

"This is a case he will be taking a hard, close look at for further action," Bond said. "Supt. Weis has requested a briefing and will review the matter."

The video of Cozzi beating a wheelchair-bound hospital patient was entered into evidence at his disciplinary hearing before the Chicago Police Board in July and August.

The Chicago Sun-Times obtained a copy of the video through a Freedom of Information request.

The soundless video shows Randle Miles, now 62, sitting in a wheelchair in the lobby of the emergency room at Norwegian-American Hospital in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Miles was in the hospital for a stab wound to the shoulder. He apparently was intoxicated, uncooperative with the hospital's staff and verbally abusive to officers when they were called, authorities say.

A 42-second snippet of video shows Cozzi, who was on duty, shackling Miles' legs to the wheelchair, then striking Miles about 10 times — finishing with a roundhouse blow.

Cook County prosecutors have said Cozzi struck Miles with a "blackjack" — a small baton.

Miles required stitches, said his attorney, Timothy Whiting, whose law firm obtained a $125,000 settlement from the city. "He is harmless," Whiting said of Miles.

Cozzi couldn't be reached for comment, but his attorney, William Fahy, said his client is "extremely remorseful of his conduct."

"The Police Board heard all the evidence and found him guilty of his conduct," Fahy said. "They considered his many, many years as a police officer. Based on the evidence, they made the right call. He deserves a second chance."

Cozzi was sentenced to 18 months' probation in his criminal case. He also was found guilty of violating Police Department rules. But the Police Board, which considers disciplinary action against cops, rejected the department's recommendation to fire Cozzi. Instead, Cozzi was given a two-year, unpaid suspension.

The board voted 6-2 that Cozzi deserved a suspension because he earned 32 honorable mentions and other awards during his 15-year career and didn't have a disciplinary history. Board President Demetrius Carney was one of the dissenting votes. He didn't return a call seeking comment.

In November, the Police Department filed an appeal in court, seeking to have Cozzi fired.

Disciplinary proceedings are pending against two other officers, Larry Guy Jr. and Alexandra Martinez, in separate 2005 beatings. Both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. Neither case has been ruled on by the Police Board.

Guy, 40, was charged with punching a handcuffed shoplifting suspect at a Target near California and Addison. The city paid Armando Lucas $92,500 to settle a lawsuit against Guy, records show.

Martinez, 39, was accused of slamming a 14-year-old girl's head against a wall and punching her in the face. The girl was a shoplifting suspect in a JC Penney at 76th and Cicero.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Sun Times

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