Sunday, March 15, 2009

Does video catch cop in DUI lie?
'BLATANT FALSEHOOD' | Video shows no staggering, swaying

The video from top DUI cop Joe D. Parker's squad car shows a man walking a straight line, without stumbling or flailing his arms.

See video at Source

But Parker, a Chicago Police officer who has won acclaim for being among the leading DUI enforcers in the state, told a different story in his police report.

He wrote that Raymond L. Bell lost his balance and used his arms to steady himself. And he arrested the 33-year-old Oak Lawn man on charges of driving under the influence, speeding and negligent driving.

Now, after reviewing the squad-car video, Cook County prosecutors have dropped the July 2008 charges against Bell.

And they're considering filing criminal charges against the 59-year-old Parker, who is one of three Chicago cops whose prolific DUI-busting has now come under scrutiny. Dozens of DUI arrests by Parker alone are under review, sources say.

"There is an ongoing investigation, but we are not going to comment in further detail," said Sally Daly, spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Prosecutors have charged one of those cops -- Officer John Haleas -- with trumping up a DUI case. A review of his DUI arrests led to 156 cases being dismissed, Daly said.

Parker has been placed on desk duty while the Chicago Police Department conducts an investigation of his DUI arrests, sources said.

Chicago defense lawyers say there are two reasons police officers might cut corners or even lie to boost their DUI arrest numbers: First, they stand to profit from the resulting overtime for going to court on the cases; also, there are accolades to be had.

Both Parker and Haleas have been named "top cops" by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for having more DUI arrests than almost any other officer in the Chicago area.

In the squad-car video of Bell's July 7, 2008, arrest, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Parker is seen pulling over Bell in the 3900 block of South Lake Shore Drive around 1:30 a.m. Bell, driving a black Lexus, was headed south. Parker, northbound, flipped on his emergency lights and made a U-turn to stop the Lexus.

The video taken from Parker's car shows Bell immediately slowed down but continued to drive for about 40 seconds until he was able to exit Lake Shore Drive at the first off-ramp.

But Parker wrote in his report: "Due to speed, operator refused to stop." His arrest report put Bell's speed at 85 miles an hour -- 40 mph over the limit.

Parker wrote that Bell's eyes were bloodshot and that he had a strong odor of alcohol when he stepped out of the car.

He also said Bell "staggered" and that his gait was "unsteady" exiting the car -- which the video contradicts.

Parker is heard asking Bell if he'd been drinking. Bell said no, then said he'd had one glass of wine more than five hours earlier.

"You're drunk, man," Parker told Bell.

After checking Bell's driver's license, Parker told him to do the walk-and-turn test, in which he had to put one foot on a line, with arms at his sides, then take nine steps heel-to-toe, turn and walk back with nine more steps.

Bell was confused about which line in the parking lot he was supposed to stand on. Parker showed him where to stand. The video showed Bell appearing to be perfectly balanced when he performed the test.

But, according to Parker's arrest report, Bell flunked the test.

Next came the one-leg stand: Bell was ordered to raise one foot about six inches off the ground and count to 30. He put his foot down at first when Parker told him to keep looking at his foot. Then, Bell stood almost still with his foot off the ground as he counted past 30.

In his report, Parker marked Bell down for lowering his foot and also for hopping, using his arms for balance and swaying.

After those tests, Bell asked to take a Breathalyzer, but Parker said he didn't have the device in his car. Later, Bell refused to take the test at the station.

Before Bell was placed under arrest, Parker told a fellow officer to remove three passengers from the car, saying he didn't want to turn his back on those "m-----------s."

Parker, who joined the department in 1985, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the city Law Department said she couldn't discuss Bell's case because he hasn't filed a lawsuit and Law Department attorneys haven't seen the video. The Law Department is representing Parker in an unrelated class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Gregory Kulis on behalf of anyone falsely arrested by Parker for DUI, including a man stopped for drunken driving in May 2008 on South Lake Shore Drive.

Bell's criminal defense attorney, Gregory Reeder, said he subpoenaed the Chicago Police Department for all records -- including videos -- but was provided only with Parker's arrest report. Later, the Cook County state's attorney's office independently mailed Reeder the video on Dec. 1, he said.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Bell on Feb. 20, after viewing the video.

"If we didn't have the videotape, he could have gotten a conviction and lost his license," Reeder said. "This was a blatant falsehood. They [prosecutors] definitely did the right thing."

Records show that Parker himself was once arrested for DUI, charged with drunken driving on Feb. 17, 1996. That case was dismissed the following year.

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