Earlier this week, Pete and Garret took a trip just north of the Police Accountability Tour stop in Chicago to followup on an incident in Skokie, Illinois that occurred this past Spring, but did not receive attention until earlier in October. On March 10, Cassandra Feuerstein of Chicago was arrested on a DUI charge in Skokie and was in the custody of the village’s police force when she sustained a serious injury to her face. Requiring reconstructive surgery, the installation of a titanium plate, and resulting in persistent numbness and vision problems, Cassandra sustained the injury as a result of being shoved face-first into a concrete bench by Skokie officer Michael Hart. Why was it that such a serious injury required seven months for there to be action taken?
Only after a civil suit was filed and the video of the incident released publicly was Michael Hart’s status with the department changed, as he was placed on desk duty. Following the video’s publication, there was public outcry for criminal charges to be filed, which they finally were approximately two weeks later. At that time, Hart was suspended, with pay, as the trial is pending.
The person responsible for prosecuting Hart is state’s attorney Anita Alvarez, who is infamous for both advocating the criminalization of video recording the police, as well as suggesting that three youths who had confessions coerced out of them and were exonerated for the rape and murder of a woman may have still been culpable despite DNA evidence tying the crime to a known serial murderer. One cannot expect a monopolistic service such as police and courts to police themselves, but it is clear from the rhetoric Alvarez and others involved employ that they cannot simply sweep the incident under the rug.
At the police station and village hall, the specter of the incident hung over those involved. Knowing that many eyes are watching, it is more difficult for Hart’s colleagues to shield him from accountability, as has disturbingly been the case as the thin blue line has protected abusive police in Chicago in the past.
UPDATE: Michael Hart has resigned from the Skokie police department on November 15, after learning that the department was seeking to have him fired.