Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  Cook County is the second most populous county in the nation. It is the 19th largest government in the U.S.

Opinion: When is jail guard force brutal and excessive?

Sunday, May 01, 2016
Chicago Sun-Times
by Andy Shaw


Jails are tough places — filled with inmates who are frequently angry, aggressive and unpredictable.

That poses daunting challenges for guards who have to use the right amount of muscle to keep the peace.

So what’s appropriate force — the physical steps necessary, and justifiable, to control a volatile situation?

And what’s excessive — brutal and injurious?



Those questions, which have been swirling around the Chicago Police Department for months, also surfaced during a recent Better Government Associationinvestigation of excessive force complaints, and how they’re handled, at the Cook County Jail.

“Exhibit A” is a video of a 2013 incident, and maybe you’ll have an opinion after youcheck it outon our website.

Here’s a quick summary: A burly guard, Branden Norise, walks into a holding cell, where a smaller inmate, Randall Brown, is standing near the door.

An exchange of words quickly escalates to jostling before Norise knocks Brown to the floor and begins pummeling the curled up inmate with a series of punches and kicks to the head, then puts on handcuffs and calls for assistance.

It looks violent and feels excessive, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who manages the jail, agrees, referring the incident to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office for criminal prosecution.

But Norise is never charged, and three years later he’s still on the job at a taxpayer-funded salary of $57,000.

So what happened?

Alvarez, whose handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting contributed to her March primary defeat, decided not to charge Norise because, a spokeswoman says:

“Video showed the detainee was the initial aggressor and punched the officer twice before the officer struck back.”

At the administrative level, Dart placed Norise on unpaid leave and recommended firing after his internal affairs unit determined the guard had used excessive force.

At a hearing of the Merit Board, the sheriff’s disciplinary panel, a supervisor said Norise punched and kicked Brown “approximately five to seven additional times that were not warranted.”

Norise told the board he kept going because he didn’t “feel he had control” of Brown, and the board cleared him of any wrongdoing, finding his actions didn’t violate department rules.

Dart is challenging the decision in court, and if he loses Norise will receive an estimated $117,000 in back pay.

We wondered if this case is typical of systemic abuse and a lack of accountability at the jail, as it’s been for decades at CPD, or an outlier — an anomaly?

BGA investigators found:

+ Nearly 1,100 excessive force complaints were filed against jail personnel over the past seven years — about three per week.

+ 99 of them, or nine percent, were sustained by internal affairs.

+ 46, or four percent, resulted in suspensions of a day to a month.

+ But only four jail officers have been terminated by the Merit Board, and just six have faced criminal prosecution.

Our findings, and the confusing twists in the Norise case, tell me it’s time for an evaluation of disciplinary procedures at the jail, including a review of a Merit Board that is either scrupulously protecting the rights of guards unjustly targeted by Dart, or protecting rogue guards to the dismay of Dart and his staff.

County jail may not grab headlines like CPD, but many of the issues are similar, and we should keep shining a bright light on this often overlooked institution too, regardless of who you think made the right call in the altercation video.

Andy Shaw is president & CEO of the Better Government Association


Follow Andy Shaw on Twitter:Follow @andyshawbga



Recent Headlines

Cook County General Hospital's $90-Million Redevelopment Saves a Chicago Icon
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Engineering News Rec ord

Illinois Land Title Association Granted Summary Judgment in Case against Cook County Recorder of Deeds
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Illinois State Bar Association

Grand Jury Indicts Debt Collector of Bribing Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown
Friday, March 15, 2019
WBBM Chicago

Indictment: Cook County's hired debt collector charged with bribing county officials to secure county contract
Friday, March 15, 2019
Cook County record

Karen Chavers Honored as 2019 Unsung Heroine
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Special to

Pappas to announce deadline for Cook County property owners to pay late taxes
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Courts Cause Confusion For Woman Trying To Resolve Her Case
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
CBS Chicago

Census changes raise fears of Illinois undercounting
Monday, March 11, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Sheriff Warns of Apple Phone Scam
Monday, March 11, 2019

Caller poses as Apple to get victims personal info in scam targeting Cook County residents
Monday, March 11, 2019
WGN Chicago

Should Young Adults Be Sent To Juvenile Courts?
Sunday, March 10, 2019
NPR Radio

Cook County Jail hires 2nd consecutive mental health professional as warden
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Lawsuit: Sheriff jailed dozens because of faulty electronic monitoring devices
Monday, March 04, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Woman dies while in custody at Cook County Jail
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Fox 32

City considers landmarking old Cook County Hospital
Friday, March 01, 2019
Gazette Chicago

Judge: State constitution doesn't force Cook County to spend $250M more on roads, transport projects
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Cook County Rrecord

City Club of Chicago: Cook County Housing Authority Executive Director Richard Monocchio
Thursday, February 28, 2019
WGN Chicago

Illinois hospitals seek reform of Medicaid managed care system
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Effingham Daily News

Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic’s Annual Report
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Special to

Glenview open house a 'one stop service' for new, existing residents to learn about town offerings
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Glenview Announcements

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.