Alderman: Why was cop who shot unarmed man promoted?
By Fran Spielman City Hall Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 4, 2011 2:54PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A South Side alderman on Friday demanded to know why a Chicago Police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man at a CTA station in 2003 — and later admitted he misled investigators about it — was not only allowed to keep his job, but promoted to detective.
Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) questioned the 30-day suspension and promotion handed to Police Officer Alvin Weems as the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a $3 million settlement to compensate the family of 23-year-old Michael Pleasance.
“What happened to the officer who filed an initial report saying there was a scuffle and that Mr. Pleasance was wrestling with him about a gun” before a CTA surveillance camera video proved otherwise, asked Lyle, whose ward includes the CTA Red Line’s 95th Street station, where the 2003 shooting took place.
Corporation Counsel Mara Georges noted that the Office of Professional Standards recommended that Weems be fired. But, then-Police Supt. Phil Cline reduced the penalty to a 30-day suspension before making Weems a detective.
“So, he shoots someone, gets 30 days, then gets a promotion,” Lyle said.
Georges replied, “It appears that way.”
Afterwards, Lyle made no attempt to conceal her anger.
“There’s a belief out here that the value of black life is not considered to be high. And when something like this happens, it just really confirms the distrust that people have in our communities regarding police relations,” Lyle said.
“We don’t need that. We need people working with the Chicago Police and feeling comfortable that they are not going to be shot without substantial justification.”
Reminded that Weems was promoted “two police superintendents ago,” Lyle said, “We want to believe that it has changed. These are some of the issues we’re certainly gonna discuss with whoever the new police superintendent is ... to make sure that this is not something that we’re talking about four years from now, two years from now, 30 days from now.”
The 2003 shooting was captured by a CTA surveillance camera.
If not for the video, widely viewed on YouTube, City Hall and Weems might never have admitted that the shooting was not justified.
At the time, Weems was trying to break up a fight that had Pleasance as a mere bystander.
The Police Department initially maintained that the victim struggled with Weems for the officer’s gun. Only after the victim’s family sued and a judge ordered the CTA video released did the city and the officer change their stories.
The video shows Weems, dressed in plainclothes, arriving at the L platform with his gun drawn. The officer pulls a young man out of the fight as Pleasance stands off to the side pointing and apparently trying to talk to the officer. The video then shows Weems raising his gun and shooting Pleasance in the face.
The settlement is expected to be approved by the full City Council next week.