After Skokie Police Officer Michael Hart was charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct charges Wednesday, Skokie village officials announced they are placing him on paid administrative leave. They plan to complete an internal investigation and may bring disciplinary action, they said.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez' office brought the felony charges against Hart because of a March 10 incident in which he forcibly shoved Cassandra Feuerstein, who was being processed at the Skokie Police Station, into a cement bench, shattering her facial bones and resulting in severe injuries, Alvarez' office said.
The statement from the village follows.
Village of Skokie officials today announced that they have placed a 19-year veteran police officer on administrative leave as the Village finalizes its internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the treatment of a woman in police custody for a DUI arrest early this year.
Officials also pledged the Village’s ongoing, continuing support and assistance to prosecutors, who today announced that the officer has been charged with felony counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct for his role in the March 10 incident, which took place at the Skokie Police Department Headquarters.
“We have said before that the Village is deeply concerned about the injuries suffered by a woman in the custody of the Skokie Police Department,” said Skokie Village Manager Al Rigoni. “That’s why we initiated an immediate internal investigation to get at the facts of this case. The Village and the Police Department provided exemplary assistance to Cook County prosecutors as they investigated this case. Now, with the completion of the state’s investigation and decision to file charges against the officer, we are able to complete our internal investigation before determining disciplinary action.”
The officer, who had been assigned to desk duty during the ongoing, internal investigation, has been relieved of his police powers and is currently in a paid- leave status in accordance with applicable employment laws and pending completion of the Village’s internal investigation. Village officials said they would complete their investigation and take appropriate action. The complainant has since plead guilty to a charge of DUI.
In a letter sent to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez last week, the Village requested that her investigators complete their investigation in a timely manner so as not to further delay the Village’s own internal investigation.
“We are pleased that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office moved ahead with this matter because it allows us to also proceed in a way that is fair and brings a timely resolution to this unfortunate incident,” said Rigoni.
This is the first time in many decades that a Skokie police officer has been criminally charged as result of any duty-related activity.
“I am proud of the work the Skokie Police Department does every day. Our officers perform a difficult job extraordinarily well,” said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. “I am even more proud of the strong relationship our officers have developed with the residents they are sworn to protect. It is every officer’s duty to treat members of the public professionally and respectfully. The Village will complete its review shortly and take appropriate actions.”