“Whole Truth” Goes Missing In Police Dept. Account Of Crash


The benchmark for honest and thorough factfinding in our society is the court-administered oath to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  And if anyone ever needed an object lesson in the meaning of the three components of that oath, the Park Ridge Police Department’s reporting of the high-speed crash last Wednesday (June 3) night near the intersection of Cumberland and Devon provides it.

The “truth” piece of this story is pretty simple: four people were injured, two seriously, when a red 1996 Chevy SUV driven by a 20-year-old man, traveling east on Devon at a high rate of speed, ran a red light and struck a gray 2014 Audi driven by a 24-year-old Park Ridge woman traveling north on Cumberland. That basic truth was conveyed in three separate police department-issued press releases since June 4.

The “whole truth,” however, is that a Park Ridge police officer was chasing that SUV when it ran the red light.  That truth was not revealed to the public, despite three separate press releases about the incident issued by our police department, until June 7 – almost four days later.  And that revelation occurred only after somebody, reportedly from inside the police department and “angered” by the way the situation was being handled, tipped off the ABC News television investigative team of Chuck Goudie and Christine Tressel about both the police chase and the existence of a video of it recorded by the squad car’s dash camera.

As for the “nothing but the truth,” that part of the oath is intended to deter obfuscation of the whole truth by a clutter of irrelevant information and opinion. In this case, that clutter includes information like: the SUV had been driving around the suburbs for 30 minutes before the crash; the officer involved in the chase was at least a 10-year veteran of the force; he was treated at the hospital for high blood pressure and trauma from what he had seen; he has been relieved of street duty and placed in a desk job pending investigation; and that the driver of the SUV promptly lawyered up and isn’t talking to the police.

And let’s not forget Police Chief Frank Kaminski’s own admonition that the media focus shouldn’t be on the officer’s involvement in the crash or on his department’s concealment of that involvement, but on the driver of the SUV.

Look, there goes Elvis!

Ironically, the crash occurred the very same day that we published a post critical of the police department’s seeming cover-up of the two-police-calls prelude to last summer’s beating of a Park Ridge man in Hinkley Park, which most recently involved the department’s rejection of a Park Ridge Herald-Advocate FOIA request. Now, one week later, we’re writing about another cover-up completely unrelated to the first.

We believe Chief Kaminski is basically a good man. And we believe that the police officers under his command are basically good men and women. We also believe that the police department has generally done a fine job in serving and protecting our community.

But even basically good people can do bad and destructive things.  And, frankly, there seems to be some kind of dysfunction within the police department, one of the symptoms of which is these instances of subterfuge and manipulation of information that are as inexplicable as they are unacceptable.

From what ABC News has reported, there also may be some dissension in the ranks – as indicated not only by the angry leaker of the tip to ABC, but also by rumors we’ve heard of two “factions” or “cliques” within the department which, if true, could be contributing to some of these transparency issues.

Although Kaminski insisted  to those ABC investigators that “[t]here is no cover-up,” the only other explanation for the failure to include the police-chase element of the incident in those three separate press releases issued by the police department would appear to be that the person(s) issuing those releases is/are incredibly inept. And, frankly, we can’t give much credence to that alternative in light of the department’s pre-occupation with public relations – as reflected by things like the “Complimentary Letters and Awards” insert that shows up regularly in the City Council’s COW packets.

Whether or not the officer involved in this incident acted properly or improperly in chasing the SUV down Devon at high speed is a question that won’t be answered until the investigation is completed. And even if the outcome is unfavorable to the officer, it likely was more of an error in judgment than a premeditated breach of policy, protocol or procedure.

But once again we note that it’s way past time Chief K and his department learned that the cover-up is usually worse than the error. Because an error is correctable, while a loss of trust and confidence that comes with a cover-up is usually permanent.

Especially when it’s the trust and confidence of the people you have sworn to serve and protect.

To read or post comments, click on title.


8 comments so far

Thanks for the explanation, especially about the “nothing but the truth” part which I never really understood until you gave your concrete examples.

And I agree that it was either a cover-up or extreme incompetence.

Stop hatin’ on the police. How could they have known that one of their own was involved in the chase? Maybe he didn’t call it in. Maybe he left the scene of the accident before any other cops showed up. There’s got to be a plausible explanation because the chief told us there’s no cover-up.

Sure would be nice to see this level of concern about cover-ups in the many other areas of life in which they flourish. But then, most of those others, from religious leaders to billionaires’ lobbyists, aren’t union labor.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, Class Warrior. You must know something that we don’t, because we assumed whoever ordered or endorsed the cover-up had to be at a non-union command level. Pray tell, what “union” police department official authored those first three press releases that mentioned nothing about police involvement in the incident?

Is this the Lou Jogman influence on the force?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no idea.

You’re correct; Class Warrior. Any sin of omission in the press releases would have been at a non-union command level. However, the police who were chasing the alleged miscreant would have been rank and file officers, and you are always looking hard for reasons to undercut the professionalism and commitment — and thus, the worthiness of good pay — of any of our public employees, especially those supported by a union.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And apparently your obsession with waging – and defending – class warfare causes you to overlook even the most express and clear defense of the “rank and file” officer whom the police department couldn’t admit was “chasing the miscreant”:

“Whether or not the officer involved in this incident acted properly or improperly in chasing the SUV down Devon at high speed is a question that won’t be answered until the investigation is completed. And even if the outcome is unfavorable to the officer, it likely was more of an error in judgment than a premeditated breach of policy, protocol or procedure.”

Doesn’t the police chief answer to city manager Shawn Hamilton? So why isn’t he saying or doing anything about this cover-up? And where is public safety chair Ald. Nick Miissis? If the police department is hiding information, somebody in the city’s chain of command needs to be able to call out the police chief for that.

To paraphrase the Dude in “The Big Lebowski”: This will not stand, ya know, this cover-up will not stand, man.

Come on, PRPD, just start telling the truth instead of always playing CYA.

First off my name is Milissis. I know it’s not easy but if you’re going to criticize me at least get my name right. Secondly, I’m here and am looking into the matter having the same concerns that have been brought up here. Sorry I’m not sharing the play by play but right now there is not much to report on. I have a meeting set up with the City Manager to discuss the crash and the FOIA issue. There is an investigation going on into what happened with the crash. In smaller Ploce Departments there aren’t standing internal Affairs departments or Inspectors General to investigate situations like this so an outside firm is hired. They are in the process of conducting that investigation. I have asked to be briefed on the progress and findings of this investigation. The public and the council will get the same answers. I know we all want answers now but sometimes with government that takes more time. I am also open to the suggestion that undue delays to any investigative process are a coverup strategy (I.e. Delay equals forget). If I perceive that is the case I will be the first one to call the Chief and PD on it. We will all get answers on what happened. I promise you that. If not I will be the first one calling for immediate changes in the PRPD.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you, Ald. Milissis.

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