Officer involved in August excessive force arrest to remain on police department

City+Council+Aldermen+Carolyn+Morris+reads+a+letter+out+loud+during+DeKalb%27s+City+Council+meeting+on+Monday%2C+July+13th.%0A

Patrick Murphy

City Council Aldermen Carolyn Morris reads a letter out loud during DeKalb's City Council meeting on Monday, July 13th.

Kierra Frazier, Reporter

DeKALB — Sgt. Jeffery Weese, who used a chokehold during an August arrest, can’t be fired due to police union contracts. Weese has already been disciplined for his actions in February, DeKalb city officials said.

“Could you go back in time and fire them for those incidents that may have happened years ago or maybe in another department?” DeKalb City Attorney John Donahue, asked. “You would have to go through a union contract, and it’d be very difficult, if not impossible.” 

A viral video released almost a year ago showed Elonte McDowell, of Aurora, being choked by Weese and stunned with a stun gun. Weese served a 30-day unpaid suspension and was supposed to complete cultural competence and use of force training. Weese’s training has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Manager Bill Nicklas said.

The comments regarding Weese’s actions arose at Monday night’s City Council meeting, where council members and residents discussed police department changes. 

First Ward Alderperson Carolyn Morris asked city officials why Weese hasn’t been let go after residents asked during the public comment portion of the meeting. Weese being fired is also one of the demands of local Black Lives Matter protesters.

“We have issues with one officer that we really need an answer from the city on,” Morris said. “I don’t know what’s going on with that, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been addressed.” 

The police department plans on changing policies to include the prohibition of the use of force by officers, implementation of body cameras for officers and inclusion of a social worker position at the department, according to a list released by the city on July 9.  There will not be changes to the DeKalb Police Department’s budget.

Weese can’t be fired for his actions last August; however, Weese’s use of conduct will stay on his record, Donahue said.  

Vivian Meade, a local Black Lives Matter organizer, said the changes within the DeKalb Police Department shouldn’t have been a reaction to the death of George Floyd, but rather a reaction to the local incident involving McDowell. 

“Until [Weese] is fired [and] without a pension, my life, along with the other Black lives in this community, do not matter to you,” Meade said. 

Eric Ogi, a pastor at Federated Church in Sycamore, said he disagrees with Nicklas’s belief that there needs to be a reduction in city crime in order for the police budget to be reduced.

“We can say Black lives matter over and over again,” Ogi said. “But until something substantive happens that doesn’t show symbolic action, Black lives don’t matter here in DeKalb as much as a police officer’s job.” 

Fifth Ward Alderperson Scott McAdams said he supports the changes that are being implemented within the police department and that council members should act on “the rare opportunity in front of us to make real change.” 

“Black Lives Matter, and we should work to fix anything that contradicts that,” McAdams said. “Crime prevention starts with funding social programs and creating opportunity. As we craft our 2021 budget, we should look out for ways to reinvest in our community so that we don’t even need to call 911.” 

Mayor responds to local homicides

Mayor Jerry Smith concluded Monday night’s City Council meeting by addressing a July 13 Facebook post on the DeKalb Illinois Issues page which stated that Smith has “been silent on crime and has done nothing to alleviate the shootings and murders” in the city. 

On the Fourth of July, a double-shooting incident took place and led to one death and one injury. On July 12, another fatal shooting occurred. 

“I’m getting a bit tired of those, especially those from this issues blog, who seemingly and continually make claims that this is a do-nothing council kowtowing to our city manager,” Smith said. “This council is a top-notch collection of top-notch citizens who are trying to do the right thing.”