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Hospital police safe -- for now

Saturday, February 17, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporter

A day after a Sun-Times reporter was handcuffed and thrown in a holding cell by the controversial Stroger Hospital Police force, County Board President Todd Stroger said it would be too hasty to commit to disbanding the force.
"We are investigating now so I can't really give you an answer now," Stroger said on a taping of "At Issue" for WBBM-AM radio. "We will look at that. Everything is on the table. We want to make sure the security force is well-trained."
Reporter Steve Patterson was covering a protest by homeless activists upset with new hospital chief Dr. Robert Simon for dismissive comments he was quoted making about homeless people to the Chicago Reader.
Patterson told the officers he was not a protester, but they pushed him until he fell, handcuffed him and locked him in a holding cell even after he showed them his police-issued press badge.
As Stroger met with county commissioners to seek a compromise on proposed budget cuts, the police force was just one of many items they discussed, he said.
"There has to be some type of security at the hospital," Stroger said. "Maybe we need to look at the training that they receive and see if it can be done in a different manner."
Panel report expected soon
Five years ago, an officer fought with a pregnant patient, knocked her into a counter at the hospital, and she lost her baby. Taxpayers paid $1.5 million for her loss.
Last month, the family of Augustin Sotomayor filed a lawsuit saying one of the officers pulled the 77-year-old man out of his car as he was waiting for his wife, asked him if he was in the country legally, and beat him up.
County commissioners are waiting for a report by a three-member panel expected shortly before proposing to disband the force.
"Once we get past this week, we can get back on the security force," Stroger said.
Within the next week, Stroger and county commissioners must agree on a budget. Stroger threatened Friday to veto commissioners' proposed alternate budget if they stick to demands that Dr. Simon keep open what he feels are underutilized health clinics.

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