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In the wee hours, Cook County board fires hospital police force

Friday, February 23, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Good morning, Stroger Hospital police force.
While you were sleeping, you got fired.
A majority of the Cook County board of commissioners, after passing the 2007 budget, decided to fire the 64-member police force that guards the county’s main public hospital.
The move came after a highly publicized arrest last week of a Chicago Sun-Times reporter who was covering a protest at the hospital, but was the culmination of efforts to disband the force after a number of highly publicized incidents of alleged brutality.
Last year, the force was criticized when members allegedly dragged an elderly Hispanic man from his car, questioned his immigration status and brutalized him. The man, Augustin Sotomayor and witnesses told reporters he was simply there waiting to pick up his wife, who works at the hospital. Police said he had ran over an officer’s foot, but all charges were later dropped by the State’s Attorney’s office.
“This is a repetitive situation,” said Commissioner Tony Peraica, who voted to disband the force.
“Nobody speaks highly about this police department,” said Democratic Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, the main sponsor of the measure.
“I don’t think four to five incidents in 17 years is a horrific record,” said Commissioner Joan Murphy, who voted to keep the force.
“I don’t think it’s smart that at two in the morning we’re deciding the fate of all these people,” said Peter Silvestri, who voted present.
The disbanding becomes effective Sept. 1, the lag time due to union contracts that call for four to five months notice before dismissal. The county will now solicit bids to privatize security at the hospital.
Voting to disband the force were: Maldonado, Peraica, Forrest Claypool, Liz Gorman, Gregg Goslin, Joseph Mario Moreno, Mike Quigley, Tim Schneider and Larry Suffredin. Voting against the measure were Murphy, William Beavers, Jerry Butler, Earlean Collins, Deborah Sims, Robert Steele and John Daley.
Board President Todd Stroger said he likely will not veto the measure.


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