The Alton, Illinois Police Department is launching an internal affairs investigation into an incident regarding a patrol officer who appears to pepper spray two teenagers handcuffed in a holding cell. The incident was caught on surveillance video.
“A black officer came in and sprayed mace on them while they were were handcuffed doing nothing at all,” said Alton NAACP President James Gray.
Gray says video of an Alton police officer spraying mace on two handcuffed teens was mailed to him anonymously.
“I was astounded to see what was happening to the two kids that were in the holding cell,” he said.
The video was also sent to the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office. The video was dated January 26, 2015 but the Alton Police Chief says he wasn’t notified of it until March.
So why did it take about two months for the chief to find out about his own officer’s “use of force” on two handcuffed teenagers?
“Obviously new procedures have to be put in place as far as the timing of when the reports are finalized and brought to my attention,” responded Police Chief Jason Simmons.
Chief Simmons and the mayor also are questioning why the officer maced the teens in the first place. The officer has been on the force for 18 years and the chief says he has been outstanding.
“Obviously he made a huge mistake, an error in judgment and because of that, his actions will be looked at and possible discipline will be handed down,” Simmons said.
Mayor Brant Walker says Chief Simmons has been criticized for changes he made within the department, including cutting staff. Walker thinks this might be why the video was released to the public.
“Jake Simmons has served this community for 22 years with distinction and there has definitely been a character assassination with people who are unhappy with his management decisions,” Walker said.
“I totally agree this is suspect, this video was released to the media the day before my appointment,” Simmons said.
Police have not said why the teens were arrested.
The Alton City Council voted not to re-appoint Chief Simmons, but the mayor exercised his right to retain Simmons as the Alton Police Chief.