UCPD officers innocent in Carthans case

By Usman Ahmed

A federal court has dismissed a civil suit filed against the University of Chicago by a former student, ruling that two U of C Police Department (UCPD) officers were innocent of police brutality charges.

The two officers, patrolmen Donald Jenkins and Anthony Cochran, drew the ire of students and community members two years ago after Clemmie Carthans, then a first-year graduate student in the School of Social Service Administration who has since graduated, alleged that the two officers physically assaulted him in January of 2004.

The mid-November verdict challenges the veracity of Carthans’ allegations of police brutality. “The jury found that there was no excessive force. He was not hit or beaten and he suffered no discernable injuries,” said University defense attorney Sheldon Zenner in The Hyde Park Herald.

According to Carthans, in the early morning hours of January 24, 2004, he was walking alone near the Regenstein Library with the intention of meeting a College student, then first-year Valerie Curro, at the Snell-Hitchcock dormitory. Jenkins accosted Carthans and Curro outside of the dormitory and, suspecting foul play, demanded to know what Carthans was doing with Curro at such a late hour.

A heated argument ensued after the second UCPD officer, Cochran, joined Jenkins on the scene. But the exact details of what transpired between Carthans and the two UCPD officials are uncertain.

According to Carthans, the confrontation soon became violent as the two officers pushed, choked, and punched him, kicking him repeatedly when he was on the ground.

Curro, an eye-witness, confirmed most of Carthan’s claims both in a February 2004 article in the Maroon, in which she said the first officer was treating Carthans “violently,” and in a February 2004 letter to the Maroon in which she said both officers were kicking Carthans while he was on the ground.

However, The Hyde Park Herald reported that Curro testified in court that the police officers did not kick or hit Carthans.

The UCPD investigated the incident but has not publicized its findings. Rudy Nimocks, director of the UCPD, refused to comment specifically on the case, but said the verdict confirmed that the two police officers did not use excessive force against Carthans.

An independent review committee, the Committee on University Security (CUS), which includes Law School faculty, was prompted to investigate the case. Randolph Stone, a professor at the Law School and member of the CUS said in an interview that the committee did not issue findings.

Stone added that the committee deferred its investigation once Carthans filed a civil-action suit against the University.

Carthans’s allegations of police brutality and racial profiling quickly mobilized concerned students and Hyde Park community members. They circulated petitions demanding the firing of the two officers, an official apology, and organized a week-long movement against police brutality which culminated in a March 2004 rally outside the UCPD headquarters. The two officers were not fired.

Despite repeated attempts, neither Clemmie Carthans nor his defense attorney could be reached for comments for this story. Valerie Curro also refused to comment for this story.