Saturday, June 28, 2008

Update on Officer Steven Harrison

Accused Ex-cop is Addict

A disgraced Oak Lawn police officer, accused of shaking down Hispanic immigrants for cash, is a heroin junkie, it was revealed in court Friday.

It's unclear whether former rookie officer Steven Harrison, 26, was addicted when he allegedly solicited bribes of up to $250 from as many as 14 Hispanic motorists during illegal traffic stops last fall.

Harrison -- already facing more than 20 counts of official misconduct, intimidation and theft -- was arrested while free on bail June 20 on the West Side with 10 wraps of heroin in his pocket. He's now also charged with possession of heroin.

Chicago officers spotted him buying the dope on the platform at the Cicero Green Line L station about 7:40 p.m., police said.

Harrison seemed close to tears as he appeared Friday before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rosemary Higgins. At one point, Higgins barked at Harrison, "Stop with the puppy dog eyes," adding, "You held a position in the community, but you have chosen to flout the law."

Harrison, of the 3800 block of West 107th Place, has been in the County Jail, isolated for his own safety, since his latest arrest. He was fired by Oak Lawn in October after being charged with the shakedowns.

His attorney, Brian Bennett, urged Higgins to release Harrison so he could receive treatment for his addiction, explaining that Harrison's health insurance benefits had expired following his firing and that there were no drug treatment programs that would accept him while he was jailed.

Harrison's parents would keep a close watch on him once he was released, Bennett said.

But Higgins said the parents "were watching over him when he relapsed," and told Harrison, "I'm not going to trust you to be out on the street on bond."

Outside court, Bennett declined to say whether Harrison was using heroin while working as a cop.

NY Officer Wayne Simoes Arrested for Excessive Force


This March 2007 photo released in New York by Certain & Zilberg, PLLC, shows Irma Marquez in her hospital bed bearing injuries she sustained after being body-slammed by a Yonkers, N.Y, police officer. The FBI arrested Yonkers police officer Wayne Simoes on Friday, June 27, 2008, charging him with violating Marquez's civil rights when he used excessive force and put Marquez in the hospital for four days.

A police officer who body-slammed an unarmed woman and broke her jaw during a medical call to a suburban restaurant last year was arrested Friday and charged with civil rights violations.

Federal prosecutors said Yonkers officer Wayne Simoes used excessive force when he grabbed the woman by the waist, hoisted her in the air and slammed her, face first, into a tile floor.

The takedown, recorded March 3, 2007, by security cameras, knocked Irma Marquez unconscious and put her in the hospital for four days. At the time, authorities said the officer was trying to keep her from interfering with emergency medical technicians summoned to the restaurant to assist her niece, who had been hit in the head with a bottle.

Simoes, 38, said little Friday during his arraignment. A magistrate released him on bond. His attorney, Andrew Quinn, said Simoes intends to plead not guilty.

"I've also seen the video, and I know what it shows. But what the video doesn't show is the operation of Wayne Simoes' mind at the time of this incident," Quinn said. He said Simoes didn't intend to violate the woman's rights or "cause any type of injury."

Simoes could get years in prison if convicted. The Yonkers Police Department said it had placed him on modified duty pending the outcome of the case.

Despite the nature of Marquez's injuries, which included a broken jaw and bruises over her entire face, law enforcement authorities initially sided with the officer.

Marquez was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration, and an internal inquiry cleared Simoes of any wrongdoing. After the Justice Department informed the city that it was investigating, Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone held a news conference to praise the department, saying its officers "do their jobs the right way in full accordance with the law."

A Westchester County jury, however, acquitted Marquez of the obstruction charge. Weeks later she sued the police department for $11.3 million.

Marquez's lawyer, Gary Certain, praised the FBI and the U.S. attorney for bringing the civil rights charge, calling it "a major step forward in addressing an alarming pattern of misconduct within the Yonkers Police Department."

He acknowledged that Marquez had been emotionally distraught during the incident out of concern for her injured niece, but said she hadn't interfered with the EMTs and did nothing to provoke a violent attack.