LaSalle Co. (ECWd) -
All indications are we face a national problem when it comes to trusting our government both at the National, State, and Local level. Questionable actions by public officials are the primary cause of this distrust and when attempts are made to misrepresent what is really happening, trust is destroyed. That appears to be the case with the LaSalle Police Chief Robert Uranich.
We ran our first article on a lack of paper trail regarding an investigation and discipline of a LaSalle Police Officer in this article.
We received additional documents that now point to confirmation of our concerns shared in that first article, and contend Chief Uranich was less than forthright with his representations. With the records in hand, his words now appear to point to a cover up, or at a minimum an attempt to minimize any public knowledge of the matter.
"Number 5-The City of LaSalle Police Department has no copy of any written or email communication with the Illinois State Police regarding this incident. Any communications by the LaSalle Police Depa11ment in regard to any alleged incident that could be to our knowledge allegedly construed as being related to this alleged incident was verbal to the best of my knowledge."
Those words from Chief Uranich were concerning when I read them and even more so now that we have the Illinois State Police records on this matter in hand. What he referred to as "allegedly construed as being related to this alleged incident" failed the smell test. The reason they failed the smell test is because Chief Uranich was in fact questioned by the ISP in this investigation, which means his statement of allegedly construed as being related is deceptive at best. Although he claimed to not have any written records on the matter, he KNEW my request was, in fact, related to the alleged incident.
In addition to that, is his misrepresentation regarding communications with the ISP. He conveniently claimed he had no written or email communication while failing to acknowledge there was, in fact, a written document as well as a DVD interview provided to the ISP. I suspect the wordsmith game was to reference written or email communications because a DVD is neither in his mind. We have obtained the written document but he failed to disclose the DVD interview. A FOIA has been sent for the DVD and since the case is closed there are no grounds for withholding it.
We find other areas of concern in those records to include claims by Officer Strand of no money being exchanged with a woman in one interview, with admissions of money being exchanged in another. Officer Strand claims he did not have sex with the person in question, but the woman claims they have kissed.
While being questioned by the ISP, according to Chief Uranich, Officer Stand stated; "no, I didn't pay her anything and I'm not worried about any video".
"Phillips told him once she needed money for her cell phone and again for cigarettes and Strand gave it to her"
"Chief Vranich stated he called Strand and told him Laura Phillips had been interviewed. Chief Vranich stated Officer Strand told him he never had sex with her. Officer Strand admitted he did give her money for a pack of cigarettes and money for her phone because she had given him information on drug deals. Chief Vranich advised he asked Strand about giving Phillips rides, and told him she said she kissed him twice."
So one Chief reports that Officer Strand claims NO MONEY was given to the woman in question, yet another Chief reports Officer Strand admitted to giving her money. That is what you call a problem in an investigation of a police officer.
More troubling is the fact Chief Uranich discussed the entire investigation with other agencies. Typically law enforcement instructs those being questioned to not discuss any of the case with anyone, let alone other police departments that may be involved.
From the ISP report:
Chief Uranich advised he called Chief Bernabei of Peru Police Department for him and LaSalle Detective M. Smudzinski to meet with him and Detective Hockings. ChiefUranich stated during the meeting they discussed the details of the interview with Strand and the investigation. Chief Uranich stated Detective Hocking denied he told LaSalle Officer Buffo to directly go and talk to LaSalle Assistant State's Attorney Brian Vescogni. Chief Uranich stated Detective Hocking stated he told Officer Buffo that if he was that upset he should go and speak with Asst. State's Attorney Vescogni. Chief Uranich stated they all discussed the case and they all agreed there were no criminal charges.
For starters, it is not up to the Police in this meeting to determine if there are criminal charges to be filed. That is a matter for the State's Attorney. While this case may have been focused on the criminal element of solicitation of a prostitute, we can only wonder why they ignored Official Misconduct charges, which is a criminal charge.
33-3. Official Misconduct.
(a) A public officer or employee or special government agent commits misconduct when, in his official capacity or capacity as a special government agent, he or she commits any of the following acts:
(1) Intentionally or recklessly fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law; or
(2) Knowingly performs an act which he knows he is forbidden by law to perform; or
Where this whole mess gets ugly is the insinuation that it was a police impersonator that gave this woman money to talk. They show a picture of a car and a person caught doing that before and presto, that is the person involved, not Officer Strand. No mention anywhere in this investigation that they contacted this claimed impersonator and questioned him about giving this woman money.
Where they get tangled in this story is Strand admits to meeting her. "Detective Hockings stated Strand admitted to meeting with her, in an attempt to catch people suspended."
I guess the Police Departments of Utica, Peru, and LaSalle now want us to believe that a guy who thinks cop cars are cool and has lights and sirens in his car is now dressing up like a cop and giving away money to alleged prostitutes?
Or, is the real story that pressure was brought to bear on this woman to have this matter go away. Claiming it was not Strand is convenient but the story-line makes little sense with anyone that has ever done an investigation.
"Chief Vranich stated somehow Sgt. Strand realize Sher.man wasn't showing up at Beck's in LaSalle, IL, so he goes to the Beck's in Peru, IL. Chief Uranich stated Sgt. Strand tells him he see Sherman pull up, but she wasn't driving. ChiefUranich stated Sgt. Strand said to himself he's screwed because she wasn't driving. Chief Uranich stated, Sgt. Strand informed him, he walked over to the car Sherman was in advising her she was lucky she wasn't driving. Chief Uranich stated Sgt. Strand told him he and Sherman had a brief conversation, but he didn't pay her $100.00. "
Stand is screwed because she wasn't driving? Seriously? They expect us to believe strand contacted this potential prostitute and drove out of his district to catch her in some kind of driving infraction? A Sgt shift supervisor realizes, somehow, that the person he was going to meet at Becks in LaSalle might be at the Becks in Peru? A community that is not in his district? What are the odds of the very person he claimed he was going to meet in LaSalle would be at the same named gas station in another town? Does anyone buy this story line? Is crime so low in LaSalle that they have to drive to other communities to give driving citations?
All of this smoke and mirrors led to Strand receiving a whopping two-day suspension for his actions but it's clear, no one is documenting what those actions really were. The more we read the more we are starting to believe the original tip that an officer solicited a prostitute and it appears got caught and a cover up was their path of least resistance........until the dogs got involved!
The big question now, can anyone explain why the State Police never interviewed the very officer or claimed prostitute in this case? Why did the ISP rely on the investigation of multiple police departments instead of questioning those suspects themselves?
Stay tuned for more exposure on this story as additional FOIA responses come in.
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