Teen cop impersonator drove squad, helped with arrest
By Caryn Rousseau
CHICAGO — Chicago police said Tuesday that the 14-year-old who posed as an officer drove a patrol car and aided in an arrest, and that seven officers face disciplinary reviews for the "lax" behavior that allowed the teen's escapade to happen.
"They weren't paying attention," Superintendent Jody Weis said at a news conference announcing the completion of the investigation. "They were lax. I'm very upset. This whole incident is very disturbing."
The teenager, an aspiring police officer, allegedly wore a uniform and entered a South Side police station through an unlocked back door around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24. He was issued a radio and rode with a patrol officer for more than five hours, at times using the terminal in the squad car and responding to five assignments, Weis said.
Authorities previously said the teen did not drive a squad car, but Weis said Tuesday that the boy - who is too young to drive in Illinois - spent two hours behind the wheel. The boy also helped in the arrest of a suspect who allegedly violated a protection order.
"He brought the arm into the middle of his back so handcuffs could be placed on him," Weis said.
The boy returned to the station at 7:37 p.m., when a supervisor discovered the teen was not wearing a complete uniform and had no weapon, Weis said. The teen was arrested at 7:40 p.m.
"This is absolutely unacceptable," Weis said. "We were very fortunate that a lot of tragic things didn't happen."
The boy has pleaded not guilty in juvenile court to impersonating an officer. He is no longer in custody but must wear an electronic monitoring device.
The department's Internal Affairs Division has recommended discipline for each of the seven unidentified officers who remain on the job. The Bureau of Professional Standards, which Weis created a year ago to oversee the Internal Affairs Division, will review the recommendations. The officers also have the chance to appeal.
Discipline can range from an oral reprimand to dismissal, but Weis would not comment more specifically on what the officers might face.
Weis also has asked the U.S. Secret Service for an independent security review after the security breach.
The internal investigation included 150 interviews with civilians and officers and reviews of documents, videos and radio transmissions, Weis said. All officers involved have been retrained on applicable policies, the department said, and the entire 3rd District has been retrained on police impersonators.
There were 20 cases of impersonating an officer in 2007, 24 in 2007 and eight so far in 2009, Chicago police officials said. After the incident involving the 14-year-old, Mayor Richard Daley demanded accountability from police supervisors who were on duty at the time and Weis fielded questions for nearly two hours from visibly angry Chicago aldermen.