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Update: DeKalb Mayor, police chief respond to police sergeant investigation findings

DeKALB – DeKalb police Sgt. Jeffrey Weese is suspended for 30 days unpaid leave and will undergo cultural competency training after he was found to be in violation of the department’s use of force policy following an August arrest when he choked a man.

Weese did not respond to request for comment. DeKalb interim Police Chief John Petragallo released a statement on the investigation findings Thursday, and said the department would not provide further comment.

Petragallo said the department is committed to providing “excellent service” to the community, though sometimes shortcomings happen.

“At times, we make mistakes and fall short of our mission,” Petragallo said in a statement. “When we do, we must be transparent, hold ourselves accountable for our actions and work to ensure incidents like these do not occur in the future.”

Multiple video angles of the Aug. 24 arrest of Aurora man Elonte McDowell show Weese wrapping his arm around McDowell’s neck in what a forensic police doctor has called a chokehold. A DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy then fired a Taser at McDowell while he was on the ground, rendering him unconscious. McDowell was charged with possession of marijuana with an intent to deliver, and has since plead not guilty, DeKalb County court records show. He’s scheduled for a status hearing April 17. Weese was reassigned to desk duty after the arrest, where he remained throughout the internal investigation which was led by Petragallo and Police Cmdr. Bob Redel.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said he hopes to “put this scenario behind us,” now that the investigation is complete.

“To be a police officer in any municipality today is tough business,” Smith said Thursday. “Obviously, we’ve allowed justice to follow due course. It appears that this was agreeable to the parties involved. I think from my vantage point we saw justice run its due course, and I’m satisfied with the findings.”

Weese was also found to be in violation of the department’s policies regarding biased enforcement and failure to treat every person with courtesy and respect, failure to provide appropriate medical aid as soon as possible, restricting or impairing breathing, failure to accurately and completely record all pertinent information on reports, and violating the department’s standard of conduct.

He will also be ineligible for a promotion for one year, and if he violates the policies again, he could be fired.

Petragallo said the department will continue to hold and invite community conversations to build relationships “founded in trust and respect,” between law enforcement and others in DeKalb.

“Sgt. Weese is a long-tenured police officer for the City of DeKalb who had an exemplary service record with positive community engagement prior to this incident,” Petragallo’s statement reads.

“This discipline holds Sgt. Weese accountable for his actions and provides him with the opportunity to learn from his mistakes,” the statement continued. “So that he can provide our community with the high-level of service and dedication that we expect of him and all our police officers.”

In his report after the arrest, Weese writes he “was able to wrap [his] arms around [McDowell’s] shoulder and chest area and hold him on the ground so officers could place him into handcuffs.”

Weese will serve the 30-day unpaid suspension during a time designated by interim Police Chief John Petragallo, according to a news release from the city. He also will complete additional training regarding use of force, cultural competency and related training.

If he completes the training, Petragallo could waive up to five suspension days.

The release states that Weese and the City of DeKalb acknowledge that he violated the policies, but that the acknowledgment “is not an admission of any illegal conduct.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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