Court appoints independent investigators to probe probation department’s alleged wrong doing Released on 5/21/2014 6:30:36 PM
One of the country’s oldest law firms specializing in employment law has been asked to look into allegations that high ranking officials in the Adult Probation Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County improperly cooperated in searches of probationers’ homes with local and federal law enforcement agencies.
Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans has charged the law firm of Laner, Muchin, Ltd. with the task of investigating whether the heads of the department’s specialized weapons units encouraged and participated in improper searches and seizures, as well as engaged in other questionable practices.
“I am outraged by these allegations which, if true, could be considered a blatant disregard of constitutional rights,” said Chief Judge Evans. “It is the responsibility of the probation officers to safeguard the rights of probationers at all times by ensuring appropriate policies and procedures are followed,” Evans continued. “I have directed the current leadership of the department to cooperate fully with the investigation and to make certain that any searches and seizures comply with constitutional mandates.
“This action I have taken today is part of efforts I began last year to overhaul this troubled department, and I remain resolved to take further steps necessary to address the concerns raised in today’s Chicago Tribune story,” Evans said.
In July 2013, Chief Judge Evans ordered an internal top to bottom investigation of the Adult Probation Department. The court’s director of human resources and director of internal investigations conducted interviews with probation staff, including officers and administrators. As a result of ongoing department wide audits, Chief Judge Evans recognized the necessity of separate, different directors for the Adult Probation Department and the Social Service Department. In March 2014, Chief Judge Evans appointed Lavone Haywood as Chief Probation Officer and Sharon Hoffman as Director of Social Service, replacing Jesús Reyes, who had previously served as both Acting Chief Probation Officer and Social Service Director.
Chief Judge Evans said that Deputy Chief Philippe Loizon, who heads the weapons unit allegedly involved in the questionable conduct, was placed on desk duty as of Friday, May 16, 2014, after Chief Probation Officer Haywood notified him of the allegations.
The investigation is expected to be completed within 60 days. Any evidence of any illegal activity discovered during the investigation will be turned over to the appropriate authorities. If the investigation determines that best practices require modification of departmental procedures and policies, those recommendations will be evaluated and implemented.