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.
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!