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Officers make trips to Springfield to protest early release of cop killers

CliftHill | IDOC photo

Clifton Hill | IDOC photo

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Updated: March 2, 2013 12:06PM

In all likelihood, one of the two men who murdered Chicago Police Officer Charles Pollard on a December night 45 years ago — leaving his bullet-punctured body in a Southwest Side alley — will walk out of prison in November.

Chicago Police Officer Frank DiMaria knows that. It didn’t stop him and 24 other cops from making a pre-dawn trip to Springfield Thursday to ensure Clifton Hill — a 66-year-old man with a bald head and a shaggy white beard — serves every last day of his prison term. Hill’s sentence officially ends in November.

“They left him there to die alone,” said DiMaria, returning from Springfield Thursday afternoon, after the Illinois Prisoner Review Board turned down Hill’s final request for early release. “He died in the alley, leaving behind a wife and ... children.”

DiMaria and his fellow officers make the trip to Springfield three to four times a year to protest, in uniform, the early release of convicted cop killers in cases so old there’s sometimes no one left living from the victim’s family. Pollard’s wife died some years ago, and one of his children now lives out of state, the officers said.

“We felt this was something that needed to be done, and that we needed to let [the Board] know we needed to keep these people in jail,” said Sgt. Frank Iglinski, who was with DiMaria Thursday. “We’re there to represent family, friends and fellow officers of the people killed.”

Pollard was a young policeman — who’d changed out of his uniform and was walking to his home in the 4000 block of West 21st Street after his shift — when Hill and another man, Eugene Armstrong, allegedly robbed him Dec. 14, 1967.

“He didn’t resist because they had the drop on him,” DiMaria said. “I’m sure his thoughts were, ‘give up the money, and maybe I’ll survive.’ At that point it’s survival mode, when you’re looking down the barrel of a gun.”

But when Hill and Armstrong discovered Pollard’s police star in his wallet, they killed him — shooting him four times in the chest, DiMaria said.

Hill and Armstrong, who has long since been released from prison, were both charged with robbery and murder, and convicted after separate trials. Hill’s robbery conviction was later overturned on appeal. Each man implicated the other as the shooter, said Ken Tupy, a spokesman for the Prisoner Review Board.

Hill was sentenced at a time when inmates in Illinois were still eligible for parole, which he was granted in 1999, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Hill was back in prison three years later, after a drug-related violation of his release, officials said.

On Thursday, DiMaria, Iglinski and the other officers stood quietly inside a conference room where a panel of 11 board members considered Hill’s case. The officers didn’t speak — other than to give their names and to say they were there to protest Hill’s release. After hearing from attorneys on both sides of the case, the board voted unanimously to keep the convicted murderer in prison.

While DiMaria and Iglinski want to see cop killers locked up as long as possible, they both say they accept the limits of the law.

“I’m a police officer, and I’ve been one for 35 years,” DiMaria said. “You try not to take these cases personally. I can’t change the law.”

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