Government

Berwyn cop promoted despite concerns voiced by residents, activist group

BERWYN - The Berwyn City Council voted 4-2 Jan. 25 to promote Detective David Green to the rank of sergeant despite concerns raised by residents and a community advocacy group about his conduct as a police officer.

The vote came after 17 residents and Berwyn’s Rizoma Collective wrote statements protesting Green’s promotion, citing the multiple lawsuits in which Green has been named alleging excessive force, assault, battery, unreasonable detention, unreasonable seizure, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

The city did not immediately respond to FOIA requests filed by Shaw Media detailing the settlement figures for those lawsuits, which were settled out of court.

At the council meeting, Mayor Robert Lovero said that Green had used social media “unwisely.”

Green has targeted Berwyn resident and Latino activist Luz Chavez in multiple posts on Facebook, calling her a “bottom dweller,” “an obvious lowlife,” “an obvious miserable woman,” and “a problem maker,” as well as accusing her of “stir(ring) up hate” and “fear mongering.”

The vote to promote Green goes against the recommendations of the Hillard-Heintze 2018 police audit of the Berwyn Police Department. The audit stated that Berwyn police promotions were part of significant morale problems among the department’s rank and file because officers didn’t know how promotions were granted and that no one with the Berwyn Police Department had received a formal performance evaluation.

Chicago-based Hillard-Heintze offers risk management, assessment and law enforcement consulting to private and public agencies across the globe. Hillard-Heintze Vice President for Law Enforcement Consulting Robert Boehmer and Chief Legal Counsel Debra Kirby publicly addressed the Berwyn City Council’s in December 2018, noting that they had conducted approximately 90 interviews with members of the Berwyn Police Department, community leaders and other stakeholders. They returned in January 2019 with additional findings.

“No clear protocol exists on how inquiries and informal complaints are conducted and reviewed,” Kirby said. “No performance evaluations have occurred since 2015. There are a lot of opportunities for advancement in the organization, but it is unclear how advancement happens. It is not clear how people are promoted. Appointments to speciality positions are not subject to a formal process, as they occur at the discretion of the chief.”

Voting against Green’s promotion were Alderwoman Jeanine Reardon and Alderman Jose Ramirez.

“Mr. Mayor, you’ve called this vote a formality. It isn’t a formality to me and it isn’t a formality to my ward. No,” Reardon said.

Aldermen Rafael Avila and Cesar Santoy voted for the promotion. Alderman Anthony Nowak, who had his own social media issues a few months back when he “joked” about domestic violence on his Facebook page, made the motion to promote Green, seconded by Alderman Scott Lennon.

Avila voted “present,” which Lovero said “goes with the yesses.” Alderman Robert Fejt said that the counsel vote was a formality that had been decided earlier and voted “yes.” Alderwoman Alicia Ruiz abstained, stating she believed there were “systemic issues” that needed to be addressed.

Berwyn resident Matt Williams, an administrator for the Facebook page Berwyn Cool Kids, said during the meeting that on Oct. 21 he had talked to Lovero about his concerns regarding Green’s “repeated harassment” of a Berwyn residents on Berwyn Cool Kids.

“Thank you, Mayor Lovero, for finally answering my question,” Williams said in a written statement read by City Clerk Margaret Paul. “It would appear that the protocol for a Berwyn police detective being reported for verbal harassment in addition to the many other concerns is recommendation for promotion. This is unacceptable.”

In a written statement, the Rizoma Collective addressed concerns about a lawsuit filed by Mustafa Soliman, naming Green among others.

“The most disturbing of these cases alleges Green followed a person of color out of a bar, showed his police badge and then assaulted the victim,” the statement said. “In addition to these lawsuits, Green participated in and defended the excessive police presence at Berwyn’s first Black Lives Matter rally at city hall.”

Lovero said the Rizoma Collective statement was inaccurate.

“My comment in open forum is that the social media seems to appoint all these lawsuits directly at Officer Green,” Lovero said. “There were several officers listed in those lawsuits, as there normally are in these types of cases. To say Detective Green cost this city money he and he alone is misinformation.

“However, his unwise comments on social media perturbed me. I did address that with the gentleman. He did it on his off time so there is nothing I can do as the city with respect to his conduct, but I told him it was unwise and it ceased. He did exercise his First Amendment right of free speech just like other people are doing on social media, but I thought it was an unwise and not very appropriate choice of words.”

Green’s salary was approximately $137,000 in 2018. He is married to Berwyn City Administrator Ruth Green, who congratulated him on the city’s official Facebook page after the meeting, noting that he is the “first native American sergeant” in the Berwyn Police Department.