Illinois AG To Investigate Joliet Police Department

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Image for article titled Illinois AG To Investigate Joliet Police Department For Pattern of Abuses, Whistleblower Remains on Desk Duty

Photo: ArtOlympic (Shutterstock)

While some people may not like hearing the calls for police reform, whether or not that is defunding or abolishing the police, the case for those demanding accountability becomes increasingly apparent every day.

Last year, Sergeant Javier Esqueda was placed on administrative leave after blowing the whistle on his fellow officers in the Joliet Police Department for covering up a pattern of civil rights abuses. Esqueda released a previously concealed video from the arrest of Eric Lurry, a Black man who died of an overdose during his arrest in 2020. The mayor hired a private investigator to look into what happened to Lurry earlier this year. Now, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced that his office will be investigating the entire department for evidence of a pattern of civil rights abuses.

The announcement came Wednesday, according to NBC Chicago, more than a year after Esqueda lost his police powers.

From NBC Chicago:

Raoul on Wednesday announced the probe of the southwest suburban department will be a “pattern and practice” investigation of department policies, training, disciplinary system, uses of force and other areas, a review similar to the one conducted by the Justice Department of the Chicago Police Department after the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Raoul said his office began a “preliminary investigation” in the summer of 2020 at the request of Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and city council members.

Raoul declined to say what that review turned up, but the AG said his investigators would not be looking into specific incidents such as the 2020 death of drug suspect Eric Lurry, who died of a fentanyl overdose after being suffocated and having a baton forced into his mouth by Joliet police officers while in the back of a police cruiser.

According to CBS Chicago, the dashcam audio was tampered with and the video was kept concealed in Lurry’s case until Esqueda came forward. The officers were caught on camera berating Lurry while he was unconscious, holding his nose and neck and slapping him.

Lurry’s airway was obstructed for one minute and 38 seconds.

“After reviewing publicly available information, and thousands of documents from the Joliet Police Department, we identified sufficient areas of concern to warrant initiating a pattern or practice investigation,” Raoul said in a statement, CBS reports.

Esqueda told CBS reporters that he believes the AG will find not only evidence of cover-ups but also retaliation to any officer who speaks up.

Last month, according to USA Today, he won a Whistleblower of the Year Award from The Lamplighter Project, a national organization of police whistleblowers. Esqueda, who is still on desk duty, goes to court in November to face official charges of misconduct for releasing the video. He can get up to 20 years in prison.

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