By Craig Wall
JOLIET, Illinois (WLS) — The Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s Office announced Wednesday an investigation into the Joliet Police Department.
A year ago the attorney general’s team began pouring over cases and files and determined there was enough evidence to warrant launching an investigation into whether police have shown a pattern of unlawful and unconstitutional policing.
“This will be a civil investigation that will examine whether there are systemic issues within the department that affect the Joliet police department’s ability to police in a safe, effective and lawful manner,” Raoul said.
The civil investigation is the result of the death of Eric Lurry in police custody in January of 2020.
Last summer, the mayor and city council requested that the attorney general look into the death as part of a broader review of police policies and procedures
“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.
Eric Lurry’s death is just one of many cases now under review for how the Joliet Police Department handles traffic stops, pedestrian stops, use of force and allegations of police misconduct.
“They’re very rigorous investigations. They last many months, they involve subpoenas testimony and documents, there are hearing that are conducted. And they often end up with some very scathing observations which we saw in the case of Chicago,” said Gil Soffer, ABC7 Legal Analyst.
This afternoon Lurry’s widow Nicole joining local activists to get a private briefing on where the investigation is going. She did not want to comment on the advice of her attorney.
“Hopefully this is the start, this can be the start to open up bigger investigations here at the Joliet Police Department,” said community activist Stringer Harris.
“If this isn’t just a political scheme, and they’re not just blowing smoke, then yea, they’re gonna find plenty of misconduct,” said Karl Ferrell, chairman of Black Lives Matter Will County.
No officers connected to Lurry’s death were criminally charged and this investigation is civil in nature, not criminal.
Raoul said his office is not focused on any individual cases per se, but on whether there are systemic problems that need to be addressed. The result could lead to a consent decree similar to Chicago, but it may not.
“The investigation will look at the larger picture in an effort to prevent future incidents from happening, rather than trying to look back and penalize the Joliet Police Department of specific officers,” the attorney general said.
The attorney general’s office will be holding its first public hearing for this investigation in Joliet, seeking public input.
Nicole Lurry, Eric’s widow, released a statement saying, “The family is pleased to learn that almost two years after the death of their beloved, Eric Lurry, efforts are underway to ensure that no other citizen within the City of Joliet will hopefully ever have to experience the tragedy that his family has faced. We applaud Attorney General Raoul’s announcement today launching a full-blown investigation into the practices of the Joliet Police Department focusing in part on the use of force by its officers. We are confident that the Attorney General’s thorough investigation will lead to much needed police reform. Though the Attorney General does not have jurisdiction to investigate the death of Mr. Lurry specifically, it is clear that the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lurry’s death in custody caused enough concern to lead to this investigation. We are saddened that Eric Lurry had to lose his life in order for change to come. We urge State’s Attorney Glasgow to reconsider criminal charges against the officers involved as it is clear that their actions violated the law and led to Mr. Lurry’s untimely death.”
The City of Joliet issued a statement in response to the invesitation saying, “The City of Joliet is aware the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has opened a civil investigation concerning possible patterns or practices of unconstitutional or unlawful policing by the Joliet Police Department. As stated by the Attorney General, this investigation is in response to the letter submitted by the Mayor and City Council to the Attorney General’s Office in June 2020. The City of Joliet remains committed to serving the community and will continue to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office during the investigation.”
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