Officer suspended for firing warning shots

By on December 18, 2009

Action prohibited by police department
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—An Elburn police officer was disciplined this week for firing warning shots, which is prohibited by the police department.

Elburn Police Chief Steve Smith said Wednesday that he suspended the officer for two days following a month-long internal investigation into an incident in downtown Elburn Nov. 18.

Smith did not disclose the officer’s name, but said he worked part-time, two or three shifts each month.

“This (keeping the employee’s name confidential) is standard practice in internal investigations; it would be different if there had been criminal charges filed (against the officer),” Smith said.

Smith removed the officer from active duty a month ago; the officer will return to active duty following the disciplinary suspension.

The Elburn Herald previously reported the incident, stating that an officer had discharged his weapon the evening of Nov. 18 in the 100 block of East North Street while attempting to apprehend a suspect who had fled on foot from the Metra station from a North Central Narcotics Task Force investigation officer. Smith said he would not offer other information about the incident until he finished his investigation.

On Wednesday, Smith announced he had concluded his internal investigation and provided the following summary of the incident with additional details:

“At 9:35 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, an Elburn police officer attempted to apprehend a male subject in the 100 block of East North Street. A short physical altercation ensued and the subject broke free from the officer. In an attempt to halt the subject, the officer, using his duty weapon, fired three to four warning shots in the air. The subject did not stop, and was not located after more than an hour of searching for him.”

The suspect was not apprehended, but there was no indication of any kind that the subject posed a threat to anyone, including the police, Smith said.

In its firearms training, the Police Department has taught its officers that warning shots are prohibited, which has been the standard practice of the Elburn Police Department for at least the past four years, Smith said.

The rule, however, is not in the department’s procedures and policies manual, which the village is updating.

“We have been working on rewriting our policy and procedure manual since I was appointed chief (in May 2009); the use-of-force policy is just one of many policies that are being reviewed and revised,” Smith said. “We have a goal to complete the majority of them by the end of January 2010.”