15/06/2024 8:06 PM

camdenclothesline

The Queen Of Beauty

Niles Issues Clarifications On Internal Investigations In Police Department

Niles Police Chief Luis Tigera (center) speaks at a press conference at the Niles Police Station with (from left) Public Safety Chairman, Village Trustee Dean Strzelecki, and Deputy Police Chief Joe Romano. (Shawn Clisham/Journal photo)

Following a Journal & Topics report on a press conference held by Niles Police Chief Luis Tigera to discuss internal investigations and the status of former police sergeant-turned-whistleblower Nick Beyer, the village issued several statements of clarification.

Throughout internal investigations involving Beyer and several other officers who recently resigned in the face of a pending fire and police commission hearing that could have seen them terminated, the police department maintained a practice of not commenting at all on the investigations.

Many of the Journal’s orders for public documents have not been filled as information was the subject of internal investigations — an exemption under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Beyer did provide documentation to reporters, which reporters attempted to vet as best they could before citing them as sources.

In the runup to last month’s press conference, and with several preceding press releases, the village’s communications coordinator took over as the primary point of contact for the media on the internal investigations.

Beyer acted as a whistleblower regarding a Feb. 28 police well-being check on the driver of a vehicle who was possibly impaired at a McDonald’s drive-thru in late February. That driver was later identified as a civilian police employee.

Screenshot of Niles police responding to a well-being check on what was later learned to be a civilian police employee at McDonald’s a drive-thru speaker, at 1:40 a.m. Feb. 28. (Screenshot of Niles police body camera footage provided)

A Journal investigation found the employee was given a ride home to Elgin by a police commander. Niles police later said all officers in that incident acted appropriately and said the civilian employee suffered a medical condition.

Beyer faced misconduct allegations by the village. He was placed on leave as a commander and was later demoted to sergeant.   

Beyer told the Journal he was also stripped of pay in mid-June. Police said last week that Beyer was never stripped of pay. 

Beyer received a letter from Tigera in mid-June in which Beyer said the chief told him he was to be stripped of pay and that the issue would come before the fire and police commission. 

Beyer said two other officers, Fotis Markadas and Christopher Zero, had also recently been stripped of pay without going before the fire and police commission, so he had no reason to believe he would be paid upon receiving the letter. 

Markadas and Zero resigned before their commission hearings. Settlement agreements agree to withdraw employee grievances against the police department, and withdraw special orders from the police chief. Neither the special orders nor grievances were detailed.  

Niles Police Cmdr. Nick Beyer leading the department’s color guard. (Photo provided)

Reporters asked Beyer why he did not later inform them when his paycheck was deposited in his account. Beyer said he was dealing with the police and fire commission and was preparing to resign and did not realize that was the case. 

Beyer was scheduled to appear before the fire and police commission on the evening of Tuesday, July 6, but resigned a few hours before the hearing. He said he plans to file a lawsuit against the village, saying he was protected by whistleblower laws.  

Another account disputed by the village was Beyer’s insistent allegation that police body camera footage “fell off the system” after 30 days.  

“NPD retains body camera footage for 90 days, not 30 days. See policy 428.10,” village officials said.

Beyer said that was the policy, both in the police department and per state law, but said in spite of that fact, body camera footage was routinely allowed to be recorded over after only 30 days. 

Journal reporters consulted their police blotter files for innocuous, mundane incidents which were 60 days old and would not likely be the subject of ongoing investigations or flagged in the system, and filed a document order for police body camera footage of three of those incidents through a FOIA document order. 

What was returned on USB drives from police was unplayable on the reporter’s computer. Journal reporters sent an email through the village’s FOIA request system to the police records clerk who handled the request for the three incidents saying they were unable to view those videos. No response was received.

A Niles police provided a surveillance image of a woman leaving King Spa without leaving. The man she was reportedly with also shoved an employee to the ground sending him to an area hospital.

Police later released body camera footage of an incident, which was the subject of one of the internal investigations at King Spa, on USB drives, also ordered under the FOIA, which Journal reporters were easily able to view. 

On the King Spa incident, police said Beyer, who was the night shift commander at the time, faced disciplinary action as he did not report the incident to his superiors. “Beyer said he was not required to notify his superiors of the King Spa incident immediately.” Beyer also told the Journal there was nothing more detectives could have done in those overnight hours.

“King Spa had information on the offender that could have been followed up immediately had detectives been notified,” village officials later said.

A village spokesman also said, “Policy 329.4 states the watch commander is responsible for making the appropriate notifications in, in major incidents.” 

They continued, “The list in policy 329.3 of situations that would require a commander to notify superiors is not exhaustive and because (the King Spa case is) an aggravated battery is the infliction of great bodily harm it is just below homicide in the level of seriousness as the injuries sustained from an aggravated battery can lead to death. It requires superiors to be notified.” 

Beyer faced discipline for not properly searching a driver who was involved in a vehicle accident and later charged with driving under the influence. At the hospital, a nurse found the man had a gun in his pocket. Police policy 429.4 was cited by the village, which states, “Officers should search any person who is in custody before releasing that person to EMS for transport.”

“Beyer said the driver in the DUI crash was quickly put into an ambulance preventing the search,” the Journal reported. Beyer told reporters Niles paramedics had full control over the scene preventing the search. 

“Multiple opportunities existed to search the arrestee in the DUI crash,” village officials said. “(Police) department policy requires that anyone arrested be searched. An ambulance is not an excuse for not following procedures.”

Support local news by subscribing to the Journal & Topics in print or online.