Federal investigators focus on Ill. suburb's police force
The investigation appears to center around Sgt. Steven Zamiar, a 13-year veteran, though it isn't clear why
By Gregory Pratt and Joseph Ryan
MIDLOTHIAN, Ill. — A top south suburban police officer has come under federal scrutiny, with a grand jury seeking information about misconduct allegations and the department's "use of force" manual, the Tribune has learned.
The investigation appears to center around Midlothian Sgt. Steven Zamiar, a 13-year veteran who helped oversee the suburb's force as deputy chief until a recent political shake-up. It remains unclear exactly what about Zamiar — or the small department — has drawn the attention of federal investigators.
Zamiar, 46, won't say. The suburb's recently appointed police chief, Harold Kaufman, would say only that "numerous" people from the department have been questioned in the inquiry.
The village has received two federal grand jury subpoenas this year. The first sought Zamiar's personnel file, specifically requesting records related to allegations of misconduct by the officer, among other documents.
The second subpoena arrived in late June seeking police logs and call records tied to three days in 2011, along with the department's policy manuals regarding "use of force by police officers."
On one of those days, Zamiar filed an incident report saying he used a baton to subdue a suspect after an early morning chase outside a bar — at a time department records show he was not clocked in. Charges against the suspect for assault and resisting an officer were later dropped, according to court records.
Zamiar confirmed the federal investigation but declined further comment.
"I don't really have anything to say about it," Zamiar said. "It's an investigation, that's all I know."
Zamiar remains on duty with the department. The village told the Tribune there was no record of any internal investigations of Zamiar in the last three years.
The suburb's former police chief, David Burke, told the Tribune he thought the investigation centered on a burglary of Zamiar's car in front of his Midlothian home.
Police records show that in 2010 Zamiar chased suspects from his house and called police. Police records show the two 19-year-old suspects were caught and charged with felony burglary. Court records show both pleaded guilty and received probation.
As for the 2011 case, it was early on Thanksgiving when Zamiar reported that he saw a crowd being pushed out of a local bar by security.
Zamiar's time sheets for that day don't show him clocked in, but Zamiar wrote in his incident report that he was working in the area and approached the scene at the bar.
After learning there was a fight, Zamiar said a witness pointed out the suspect. Then after a brief chase, Zamiar said the suspect "turned toward me in an aggressive manner."
"At this time I utilized my ASP Baton and the subject was taken into custody without further resistance," Zamiar wrote.
Zamiar said the suspect later complained of pain but signed a refusal for medical treatment.
The suspect's attorney declined to comment.
Zamiar has faced past allegations of abuse. He was accused in 2007 of giving a suspect a concussion while trying to arrest him. That case was settled.
Early in his career, Zamiar faced three other lawsuits alleging excessive force, all within his first year on the beat. The village denied the allegations in all cases and court records appear to show one was settled, while the other two were dropped.
Records related to the suits were received by the grand jury in response to the first subpoena.
A look at Zamiar's work history in the village also shows a number of recognitions. Among several citations for achievement are commendations for drug busts as well as his work when a knife-wielding assailant went on a rampage at a shopping center, leaving a 1-year-old dead.
Zamiar also has a record of attending numerous courses in recent years, including special training in the proper use of force. Records show he completed three such courses the same year that he said he used his baton in the 2011 incident.
Burke, who appointed Zamiar deputy chief in 2011, said Zamiar is a good cop.
"(Zamiar) doesn't know what's going on. They won't tell him either," Burke said. "He's losing sleep, and he's quite upset about it. He's never done anything wrong."
Copyright 2013 the Chicago Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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