The Chicago Police officer who struck Chicago Police Board President Ghian Foreman five times on his legs with a baton during a protest that erupted after the police murder of George Floyd should be suspended for 90 days, former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and the agency charged with investigating police misconduct ruled, according to documents obtained by WTTW News.
Foreman has been a member of the Police Board for 13 years and was tapped by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace Lori Lightfoot as president after she stepped down in 2018 to run for mayor.
Foreman immediately filed a complaint with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, after the incident in Hyde Park on May 31, 2020, which left him bruised and unable to walk home because of leg pain, records show.
Records show Foreman’s complaint triggered not only an investigation by COPA, but also probes by the Cook County State Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
The probe identifies Officer Zachary Girard as the officer who struck Foreman, and concluded he did so without justification and then failed to document his use of force as required, according to documents released on March 16, Brown’s final day in office, and obtained by WTTW News on Wednesday.
Girard did not respond to a message sent by WTTW News to his LinkedIn page, which lists him as an eight-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who has been assigned to the Vehicular Hijacking Task Force since December 2021. Girard, who has not yet served the 90-day suspension because he is appealing the ruling, earns $97,974 annually, according to the city’s database.
Foreman told WTTW News he hopes to sit down with Girard to talk about what happened in the hours after much of Chicago erupted in rage after Floyd’s murder touched off an as-yet unresolved racial justice reckoning as well as calls to rethink policing across America.
“It was a hard day for everyone,” Foreman said. “It was a hard day for the police officer who hit me; it was a hard day for me who got hit.”
Foreman said he filed the complaint not because he wanted the officer to be punished, but because he wanted to improve the system for all Chicagoans.
As the probe progressed, Foreman said he gained an appreciation of the system from all perspectives, including from that of Chicagoans.
“I understand their frustration,” Foreman said. “Is this really justice served?”
Representatives of COPA did not respond to questions from WTTW News about why the probe took nearly three years.
The incident began when Foreman witnessed an altercation between two police officers and several Black men protesting near his home near 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. Foreman told investigators he attempted to intervene when he saw several police officers “just whaling away on” a man with their batons, according to the summary of the probe.
When Foreman urged Girard to exercise restraint, “Officer Girard then struck five times on his legs with his baton,” Foreman told investigators, records show.
Girard told investigators he did not remember striking Foreman, an assertion officials determined was not credible.
The incident in which Foreman was injured was captured by the city’s camera network, as well as the officers’ body-worn cameras, according to the report.
“The videos show [Foreman] was a cooperative subject against whom no force was authorized,” the probe concluded.
As part of the probe of Foreman’s complaint, COPA investigators brought charges against nine officers and determined that seven of them, including Girard, were guilty of misconduct and should be suspended for between 30 and 180 days.
All of those disciplinary recommendations were upheld by Brown, records show.
In addition to Foreman, two other Black men and a Latino man were injured in the same incident.
Approximately 350 complaints of misconduct were filed against Chicago Police officers from May 29-31, 2020.
The police board must act to confirm or reject decisions made by the superintendent to terminate an officer or suspend an officer for more than 30 days. The board must also resolve disputes between COPA and the city’s top cop if they disagree on how to discipline a police officer.
Note: This article was published on April 13 and updated with video on April 14.