Quick Hits – Mercifully, the Jensen Saga Comes to a Close

My sources told me that Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen’s return from 1.5 long years of administrative leave would come on Tuesday, September 3, but his full reinstatement actually came the next day. I chose not to share that information so neither side could organize a protest ahead of time.

For now, Lt. Jensen will be relegated to off-the-street duties which, when you consider the lingering bad feelings, probably isn’t a bad idea. I can tell you from personal experience that, though this too shall pass, he will continue to have to face the court of public opinion for the foreseeable future. This is one instance where that legendarily short American attention span might not be a bad thing.

But now that the most difficult chapter in this long story has ended, it’s a good time to review the process and see just where one of my favorite cities stands.

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1. In the end, Elgin did the right thing

Since I’ve already expounded on Jensen’s inevitable return at length, there’s no need to cover old ground. Suffice it to say that when three separate independent agencies clear you of any criminal wrongdoing, termination is not an option.

2. But the lack of Elgin leadership is truly astonishing

Even at this late stage, Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley, the one who made the final call to bring Jensen back, has been unceremoniously thrown to the wolves. Neither Mayor Dave Kaptain, City Manager Rick Kozal, nor Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley have issued any kind of statement in support of Lt. Jensen or the Chief’s decision, and that really sucks.

Not only is it an inexplicable and abject failure to lead, but it’s a massive moral failure, too. Since they seem more concerned with protecting their own posteriors than the city they’re sworn to serve, all three of them need to go.

3. This decision took far too long

Eighteen months? Please! It should’ve taken no more than six. All this bizarre lapse did was play into a small group of protesters’ hands and offer them the false hope that Jensen actually would be fired.

To leave a 20-year officer with a stellar track record twisting in the wind like this was flippin’ inexcusable. What kind of candidates are going to apply to the EPD now? I thought I was the master of aggravating both sides, but I ain’t go nuthin’ on the City of Elgin.

4. I’m even more disappointed in the Elgin clergy

I didn’t set that tough Christian standard, but I’m always more than happy to apply it to those who purport to preach it, but somehow never seem to get it right. I’m an opinion columnist which makes it my job to judge, but those pastors who repeatedly called for Jensen’s head – without due process – clearly have never picked up a Bible. If they have, they certainly missed the whole “Judge not lest ye be judged” part.

Whether it’s the ministers who refuse to call out Trump supporters or this blatant case of pandering to their congregations, the Elgin pastors’ participation in this debacle had nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with the collection plate.

And this schism between the Elgin Police Department and certain churches won’t be healing anytime soon, either.

5. The City Council wanted to have their cake and eat it, too

Some were better than others, but this was the time they should’ve either taken control of the situation or simply kept their collective mouths shut. Unable to come to any kind of consensus, the council left the Jensen decision to Chief Lalley which should’ve been the case from the start.

And for some of them to comment on what would clearly become a litigation issue is utterly beyond the pale. Just like those pastors, they chose to serve themselves and not the constituents that elected them.

6. Tish Powell’s and Corey Dixon’s political careers are over

In the words of that Holy Grail knight, “They chose poorly.” Powell and Dixon completely misjudged public sentiment and wound up pandering to a group of people who’d vote for them regardless.

But those moderate swing voters who put them over the top won’t likely cast a ballot for two councilmen who tried to publicly lynch a long-serving police lieutenant. Not only will their ill-advised statements come back to haunt the City in the pending civil suit, but the police union will pour serious campaign cash into seeing they’re defeated.

They may be able to hang onto their council seats for another term, but as far as their obvious political ambitions go, stick a fork in them, they’re done!

7. The Clements’ civil suit will fail

The City of Elgin is notorious for not settling lawsuits, and with three separate independent agencies having cleared Jensen of any criminal act or civil rights violation, the plaintiff’s attorneys are going to have a really tough time convincing a jury otherwise.

8. The protesters have been generally reasonable

It’s really sad when Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin is the one who ends up behaving badly. I may disagree with the endless city council keening sessions, but if that’s what the majority supports, then you simply sit back and politely listen. Unless your intent is to make the situation worse, there’s no point in engaging already angry and emotional people in a downright hostile manner.

I truly hope this is Mr. Gavin’s last term.

I’m not a big fan of blocking traffic, co-opting meetings with megaphones, and defacing billboards, but the protesters deserve a lot of credit for getting their point across in a generally reasonable manner.

My fondest wish is for them to maintain this comportment going forward, because if they really believe the EPD has an inherent racial bias, getting one officer fired won’t change a damn thing. That kind of shift only comes through the ballot box.

I’ll say it again! If you don’t like this outcome, run for city council, actively support someone who’s running for city council, or vote for someone who’s running for city council.

9. Police Chief Ana Lalley is the single bright spot in all of this

We’re I in her shoes, I wouldn’t have put up with the complete lack of City Hall support for a second. And then there were all the horse manure “New Age” forums where she graciously listened to the same stories over and over again.

Chief Lalley never spoke out of line, she made herself available to anyone who approached her on the issue, and she carried this difficult burden with confidence, compassion and grace. Then she made the difficult but correct decision to bring Lt. Jensen back because that’s what real leaders do.

I hope she’s looking for a new gig because there’s a real demand for police chiefs of her caliber and the Elgin “leadership” clearly doesn’t deserve someone like her.

 

What truly saddens me about all of this is that Elgin was on the brink of greatness. The business district is thriving, the Tower Building is back, and people want to live and raise their children there. This will likely turn out to be nothing more than a temporary detour, but the simmering resentments between the various factions will haunt Elgin for years to come.

And that all could’ve been avoided if anyone in City Hall had the cojones to be a leader. It’s time for change in Elgin and I’m on it!

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Mercifully, the Jensen Saga Comes to a Close

  1. Good post. I mostly agree with you, although I’m not going to vote against Kaptain based on this alone.

    I would just add one thing: From time to time, people have proposed dividing Elgin into council districts (or wards, whatever) with one council member each, instead of everyone being elected at large. The Clements tragedy shows why this is a terrible idea. Being responsible only to the voters of a small slice of the city would present a greater temptation to demagoguery, and that’s something our politicians–some of them, anyway–really don’t need.

    • Pan,

      As a result of my series of columns on this issue a number of folks have come forward with other instances of leadership failure. So sadly, it isn’t this along for the Mayor.

      And unlike you, I don’t like Elgin’s 100 percent at-large system because not only is no councilman responsible to a specific constituency, but it allows outliers to get elected.

      I’m much rather see the kind of combination representation Aurora enjoys.

      Jeff

  2. Guess it’s not quite over. Elgin Courier-News running an article giving the activists more coverage.

    • Jeff,

      What I meant was, the official stuff is basically over. Please note that I wrote that Lt. Jensen will be facing the court of public opinion for the foreseeable future.

      And as far as the Courier-News column goes, I thought the protesters, and particularly Mr. Bosque, were generally reasonable.

      Jeff

  3. Jeff you criticize the mayor and city manager for not supporting Jensen which I agree with but then you criticize Havin for answering back at the uncivilized ranting at the council meeting.

    Yes, DeCynthias family will get a settlement, just not the millionaire lottery I’m sure they are hoping for.

    Yes, Ana Lalley is a fantastic leader and should remain in her position as long as she chooses to be there.

    Cops are humans not robots. This entire incident is a loss for everyone. Jensen did the only thing he could have done after engaging this woman for HOURS in attempt to bring this to a peaceful end. Period!

    • JJD,

      Yes! Once the evidence was clear and Jensen was cleared, the lack of mayoral and city manager support was baffling.

      But I never said he should counterattack already angry city council meeting speakers. That is the time to simply let them speak. And I expected more from city councilmen than I do from the rabble. Gavin only did his best to inflame a situation that was generally under control.

      What continues to baffle me is my fellow liberals love to put the kind of onus on law enforcement that they don’t begin to put on minorities. No office in the moment should have to determine if someone’s coming at them or stumbling towards them.

      Jeff

      • Something Ana did after this incident (which I though was smart) was to bring City council members into the FATS room which is a sophisicated shoot/dont shoot machine designed to train officers when to shoot or use alternate ways to resolve violent situations. Many of these people failed this test by shooting the subject when it would not have been justified.

        It’s not like you see on TV. Theres nothing simple about the job. Another suggestion I would like to see is all future use of force training done in Elgin be video taped, make it mandatory for every council member and City Manager to sign off on it as being the methods they approve their department deploy when faced with violent situations. Then when an officer has to do a take down, take or kill another person, any politician who has an issue with this can sit down and shut the hell up.

      • I don’t disagree with any of that.

  4. 1. I agree.

    2. I agree, BUT, Chief Lalley made the recommendation, not “the final call.” The council did that. Kaptain is a weakling who has never shown support for new, current or retired police officers. Kozal is a shill for the council 100% of the time. He take his laziness from the council and their lack of initiative on how to make Elgin better.

    3. Agreed. I suspect the delay was an attempt to rock everyone to sleep. And, in Elgin, that’s easy to do.

    4. Remember, pastors must speak for their flock. And keep the money coming in, too.

    5. Yep. Another ding on mayor Weakling’s record. He cannot bring a starving mouse to a piece of cheese so the council, being one level above mice, are too tough of a task for him. It’s easier to be scared, grab a drink and look away. Of course, they are serving themselves. When you pull about 9% in voter turnout, it’s every person for themselves. Ask Gavin and Shaw who defected and crossed the picket line in 2015 from Conservative to Liberal.

    6. You’re probably and hopefully right. Don’t forget, Elgin is an all-Liberal city council now so they may have to work harder to get more fellow Libs registered. A new challenger better be ready to lay the right card down come election time or they will get back in. Perhaps voters will not accept that Powell and Dixon couldn’t get three of the remaining six fellow Libs on the council to fire Lt. Jensen.

    7. The Clements’ civil suit may fail but don’t be surprised is the city’s insurance company will tell the city to make an offer to make it go away. We did with the pregnancy van parking issue a few years when we were sued.

    8. It’s all about attention and quotes for Gavin. Always has been, always will be. A shouting match from the frothy councilman to a bereaved family member recorded forever is the latest in a long list of the “ME-ME-ME” show. Running again? I say he will. He lied in 2013 when he said he was only going to run once so it’s no mystery to me he will in 2021. I believe he wants to fistfight someone, ANYONE, before he stumbles out of office.

    9. Agreed. What a Baptism she got and navigated it well. I would have hoped for a press conference broadcasted instead of a video message where no one could have asked questions.

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