September 26, 2022
Local News

Joliet city officials saying little about police issues

City of Joliet contends with lawsuits involving police officers

Joliet officials have continued to not discuss specific details surrounding the issues that have been brewing at the police department since last year.

Officers Brian Nagra and Lionel Allen have been recommended for termination by Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner. Allen, who is black, is suing the previous police chief and other city officials over allegations of racism and discrimination.

Officer Nicholas Crowley, who was acquitted of a felony charge brought against him by the department, is being sued by two men over past arrests. Officer Cassandra Socha, Crowley’s fiancée, is suing the city, a police detective and unnamed employees over privacy and constitutional violations.

While Mayor Robert O’Dekirk didn’t respond to phone calls, he responded to emailed questions. He didn’t answer why Nagra and Allen were being recommended for firing.

O’Dekirk also would not comment on ongoing litigation.

“In regard to any ongoing litigation, any allegation needs to be proven and it is contrary to the interests of the city of Joliet to prejudge the outcome or comment on the allegations,” O’Dekirk said in an email Friday.

O’Dekirk said if allegations have “any merit regardless of the progress or outcome of litigation,” the police chief and the police and fire commission should address the issues.

“There is always room for improvement with or without litigation pending,” O’Dekirk said.

Roechner failed to respond to repeated calls about Nagra and Allen. Michael DeVito, president of the patrol officers union, failed to respond to calls.

Allen, who has been recommended for firing, has claimed he was threatened with termination for speaking out against another officer’s racism. He alleged that former Police Chief Brian Benton promised not to fire him if he withdrew a complaint he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016.

Benton and city officials have denied the allegations in court filings. O’Dekirk did not respond to a question about Allen’s allegations Friday.

Nagra was stripped of his police powers and assigned to desk duty in September. Officials haven’t discussed why or the reason for Roechner’s recommendation for him to be fired.

Nagra Enterprises, a company Nagra owns, made a $500 donation in 2014 to Citizens for O’Dekirk, the mayor’s candidate committee, according to Illinois Sunshine, a website that tracks political donations. Nagra also was the contact person on a flyer promoting a 2013 Citizens for O’Dekirk golf outing fundraiser.

O’Dekirk didn’t respond to a question on whether he’d plan to vouch for Nagra in light of his previous campaign contribution.

Instead, he said “every employee must be accorded due process when being disciplined and their affiliation with any government official on a personal or political basis will have no bearing on the ultimate disposition of their case.”

Socha’s lawsuit claims that detective Edward Grizzle had “trawled” her cellphone to look for evidence relating to a criminal case involving Crowley. Her lawsuit alleged sexual photos of her and Crowley were discovered on the phone and shared with other officers.

City officials and Grizzle have denied the allegations in court filings.

Crowley is being sued by Christopher Simenson, 35, and Milber Waters, 45, both of whom previously were arrested on charges that subsequently were dropped.

Simenson has accused Crowley of severely injuring him during an arrest and providing false information that led to the arrest. Waters, who is suing Crowley and officer Arthur Arellano, claimed the officers arrested him without legal justification.

City officials have denied the allegations.

Last year, Crowley was acquitted by Will County Judge Dan Kennedy of recklessly firing his gun in Socha’s home during an argument. Nevertheless, Kennedy said Crowley and Socha demeaned their positions, the department and the community.

“You both broke your oaths,” Kennedy said.

After the trial, Crowley’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, claimed police brass and Benton did not support the “front-line guys” and recommended a separate agency handle investigations of officers charged with crimes.

Benton didn’t respond to Tomczak’s statements at the time.

Joliet police Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, president of the department’s Fraternal Order of Police Supervisor’s Association, said Tomczak’s statements about the department were “false and misleading,” and called his comments about Benton a “cheap shot.”

O’Dekirk hasn’t publicly commented on Tomczak’s criticism of Benton, who retired months after the trial. He also didn’t answer a questions on whether Benton’s retirement had anything to do with Allen’s lawsuit or if he agreed with Tomczak’s criticism.

Tomczak’s law office donated $3,600 to Citizens for O’Dekirk between March 2015 and last August, according to Illinois Sunshine.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News