Dixon settles lawsuit for $110,000

Settlement reached, but city admits no fault in 2009 arrest

DIXON – The city has settled a federal lawsuit that accused Dixon police of using unreasonable force during a 2009 arrest.

Under the agreement, the city settled with Dixon resident Karen Beauchamp for $110,000, but it admitted no fault and denied any wrongdoing. She must take care of her own legal costs.

According to the agreement, obtained by Sauk Valley Media through a public records request, the parties acknowledged that the settlement was reached to “avoid the uncertainty of litigation” and “for the purpose of judicial economy.”

In a phone interview Monday, Beauchamp, 49, said the settlement was “closure for my family as to the ordeal that we went through.” She said that less than half of the money went to her attorney and much of the rest for medical bills.

Police Chief Danny Langloss called the settlement a “business decision” made by the city’s insurance company. It was reached in July.

The city, Langloss said, had conducted its own “comprehensive” investigation and found the officers’ actions justified.

“We were prepared for our day in court,” Langloss said in a statement. “I was completely confident the jury would determine we used the proper amount of force to make this arrest. Any lower amount of force would have allowed her to avoid the arrest that she later pleaded guilty to.”

Beauchamp’s attorney, Mark Shure of Chicago, said the settlement amount was “a lot higher” than in most such cases, especially in northwestern Illinois.

“You could try this before a few different juries, and you would get a few different results,” he said. “That’s what everyone is looking at.”

The lawsuit originally named four defendants: the city, Chief Langloss, detective Nick Albert and Sgt. Troy Morse. A judge dismissed all the claims against Morse.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in 2011:

On May 4, 2009, police arrived at Beauchamp’s house at 419 W. Ninth St. to arrest her husband, Billie Beauchamp, 47, on a warrant. He handed his truck keys to her, and as she turned to go back into the house, Albert told her she was under arrest, but didn’t give a reason.

Albert rushed up behind her, grabbed her left arm and pulled it forcefully backward, causing her to fall off the porch and land on her right elbow and tailbone.

She told officers she had had rotator cuff surgery on her right shoulder 6 weeks earlier.

Morse handcuffed her and shoved her from behind, causing her to fall forward into the living room in a complete somersault. Her young son was in the room, with Morse telling him, “Mommy makes bad choices.”

Beauchamp was taken to the police station and later charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting and obstructing an officer, according to the lawsuit. In a bench trial in January 2011, she was found guilty of obstructing a service of process, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to community service and 18 months of court supervision.

In court documents, the city says:

Albert ordered Beauchamp more than once to drop the keys, which she refused to do, before he told her she was under arrest.

Inside the house, an officer let Beauchamp turn off her coffee maker, but she continued to “mess around” and was told several times to sit down.

Both officers “felt that her moving around freely in the kitchen represented a loss of control of the situation and a potential threat to officer safety,” the city says.

The officers, Langloss said in his statement, used the “bare minimum” amount of force necessary.

“There were no punches or kicks, no use of a police baton, Taser, or pepper spray,” Langloss said. “The officer simply put Karen Beauchamp’s arm behind her back. You have to do that to handcuff someone. It is the bare minimum you have to do. The officers were not aware she had shoulder surgery. Mrs. Beauchamp knew she had shoulder surgery and she still chose to fight officers. That was her decision.”

The $110,000 settlement was higher than that for Wilson Burnell, a 56-year-old man who sued Lee County over a 2009 incident at his home. Earlier this year, a federal jury found that a sheriff’s deputy used excessive force against Burnell in responding to a phone call that reported Burnell was suicidal.

Burnell was awarded $10,000 in damages, plus about $40,000 in attorney’s fees.

Robert Kane, a criminology professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said $110,000 is not a “tremendous amount of money in the grand scheme.”

“She’ll probably pay a lot of that money to the attorney,” Kane said. “A city attorney will often find a settlement worth it so they don’t have to litigate. But no one likes to hear that the city paid $100,000 for alleged police misconduct. If I were a member of that community, I would want to know how many times this has happened.”

Langloss said this was the first settlement since he became chief in 2008. In that time, the department faced another lawsuit, but a judge dismissed it.

Beauchamp’s lawsuit put a “huge strain” on the officers, he said.

“The demands on our officers to use great discretion and decision-making is very complex, and even when you do the right thing for the right reason, you can still be put in situations like these,” Langloss said in the statement. “I completely support the actions of our officers in this situation.”