People say embarrassing things all the time – politicians perhaps more than the average person, especially in Illinois.
Where might Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone’s recent remarks fit on the shame spectrum?
We recently reported a story, which appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, about a male Forest Park cop who had sex with a 19-year-old female police intern in a squad car after taking her bar-hopping and buying her alcohol.
The woman accused the officer of raping her when she was all but passed out. The cop said the sex was consensual and wasn’t charged with any crime.
The Village of Forest Park ended up settling a federal lawsuit – filed by the young woman – for $650,000 but admitted no wrongdoing. The cop wasn’t fired and, frankly, wasn’t punished that severely, even though, aside from the sexual allegations, he had been drinking and driving in a taxpayer-owned vehicle and bought booze for someone under the legal drinking age of 21.
When we interviewed Calderone, he said the cop was “seduced” by the woman and “beyond the ability to reject” her advances.
Yes, the temptress couldn’t be resisted. She left the officer with no free will. She’s to blame for it all.
It’s one thing to not believe the woman and to stand by your employee, it’s another thing to seemingly absolve the officer of any personal responsibility.
Residents of Forest Park should be outraged by Calderone’s rhetoric.
But they should also be outraged by how the investigation into the officer’s conduct was handled.
The Forest Park Police Department didn’t bring in an outside agency such as the State Police to conduct an investigation, even though that’s considered the most fair, objective way to proceed. And it appears the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez did only a cursory investigation, despite claims that its probe was thorough.
Alvarez’s office didn’t interview the officer in question. It’s unclear whether the agency even tried. Also not interviewed were numerous other people with potential knowledge of the situation.
Instead, it appears the state’s attorney’s office put stock in a private investigator’s report commissioned by Forest Park police that raised doubts about the alleged victim’s credibility. No matter that such a report should have been judged through a different prism because it was funded by a department facing potentially heavy lawsuit liability.
To Forest Park’s credit, they answered our questions, and gave us reasons for doing what they did. We appreciate that transparency.
On the other hand there was Alvarez’s office, which stopped answering our questions – unfortunately a common practice by that agency when tough issues emerge.
What sort of message does that convey?
We need to be clear about something here. We’re not clamoring for the officer in the Forest Park case to be charged with a crime. And we are not saying he committed a sexual assault.
But a thorough, unbiased investigation was needed, and we are not sure we got one from authorities.
What we did get was a mayor making comments that sounded from a different era – and not the Enlightenment.
This blog post was written by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, who can be reached at (312) 821-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.