Now that he’s no longer fighting a gun charge, state Rep. Curtis Tarver is considering suing the Chicago Police Department for violating his rights.
“If this could happen to me, it could happen to absolutely anyone,” Tarver said.
It goes back to an incident in November.
Tarver said he was driving in his district, near 64th and Stony Island Avenue, when he was pulled over for having a headlight out. Initially, he was appreciative – who knows when a car light’s out, anyway? – but then officers asked whether he had a gun in the car.
“Being a trained attorney, a headlight being out is not necessarily a reason to ask for a firearm. And so I disclosed it because quite honestly I’m a Black man on the South Side of Chicago, I’m afraid not to,” he said on Wednesday. “You kind of trade your constitutional rights for the ability to make it home to your family.”
Tarver said police then asked him to give them the gun. He was hesitant to do so “for obvious reasons” but after an officer insisted, he did so.
“If everybody is in fear of their life and police officers are shooting unarmed Black men in the back, the last thing you would expect for them to say is to ‘hand me a firearm,’” he said.
There should have been no problem with him having the gun, given that Tarver said he had a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card and a concealed carry license.
But when police checked their database, it showed that his CCL was revoked or expired.
In CPD video provided to WTTW News by Tarver, officers can be heard discussing the status of the CCL; one said he is going to call his lieutenant about it.
The video – which is silent for portions, but has sound in others – also makes clear that the responding officers knew Tarver was an elected official.
“He’s a, uh, Congressman,” one cop is heard saying.
Ultimately, the police offer to drive home the man who was a passenger in Tarver’s car (the man refuses the ride) while they tell Tarver they’re taking him in.
Tarver said he was tightly handcuffed, taken to the Wentworth station, was unable to make a phone call and was not allowed to take a bathroom break for seven hours.
CPD’s media relations office said the officers were following protocol, and offered portions of relevant policy:
An arrestee being charged with a weapon violation will be asked to produce a FOID or CCL Card. The arrestee's response, if any, will be recorded on the Arrest Report. If the arrestee claims to have a valid FOID or CCL Card and a custodial search of the arrestee's person fails to locate one, the arresting officer will clearly state this in the narrative portion of the Arrest Report. An arrestee's registration status can be checked via the Hot Desk computer system.
During investigatory stops, including traffic stops, a licensee who is carrying a concealed handgun must:
Upon the request of the officer, disclose to the officer that he or she is in possession of a concealed firearm by either verbally informing the officer or presenting a CCL card; AND
Upon the request of the officer, identify the location of the concealed firearm; AND
Upon the request of the officer, permit the officer to safely secure the firearm for the duration of the investigative stop.
Tarver is also frustrated that he was asked to remove his hoodie sweatshirt for his mugshot.
CPD said that too, was done according to protocol, such as when an arrestee has a tattoo.
The misdemeanor charge of failing to surrender a concealed carry license was dismissed on Aug. 4.
That’s confirmed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, whose spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “After a review, we concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to move forward with the prosecution. We can confirm that on August 4, 2020, the court granted our motion to dismiss this case.”
Tarver said as a condition of having the charge dropped, he had to agree to permanently give up his gun – as in, he did not and will not get his firearm back.
“Firearms lawfully recovered as the result of a valid arrest are not returned,” the State’s Attorney’s communications department said in a statement.
Tarver said there’s no way his predecessor, longtime Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, would have been treated in this fashion.
He hasn’t filed a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, but he may. He also plans to pursue legal action against the CPD.
Tarver, an attorney and single father, said it’s not just when police physically harm someone; arrests like his can have other consequences. He said headhunters were talking with him about work and those prospects were damaged by the incident.
“Forget being a state representative. What if I were not an attorney and didn’t know my rights? What if I did not have a sister who could show up at 2 o’clock in the morning and say ‘Hey I’m a lawyer I will speak with him,’’ Tarver said. “Then how different would things have been? That’s what leaves a bad taste in my mouth because my constituents, who deal with this every single day, they don’t have the means that I have.”
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