Sheriff's candidate blasts opponent over police arbitration ruling

McHenry County sheriff candidate Jim Harrison has accused an opponent of being lax in his former supervisory role at the Des Plaines Police Department.

Officer John Bueno was reinstated to the Des Plaines Police Department in June after an arbitrator ruled that the city unfairly fired him. Bueno had been dismissed in March 2012 after accusations of excessive force.

The arbitrator found in May that multiple members of the police department knew of the accusations, but failed to take swift and proper action, according to the arbitrator’s report. That included Bill Prim, a Republican candidate for McHenry County sheriff in 2014, who was a Des Plaines commander at the time.

“This [arbitrator’s report] should be disturbing to the people of McHenry County who are concerned with improving the [McHenry County] Sheriff’s Office,” said Harrison, who is running as an independent in the November 2014 bid for sheriff. “We can’t afford this type of inaction in the county. We have enough problems already.”

The 60-plus-page conclusion by the arbitrator also stated that Prim supervised the officer before his firing.

Prim testified during the hearing that he never condoned the use of unnecessary force against arrestees, never rewarded an officer for the use of unnecessary force and never gave the officer a positive performance evaluation as a signal to condone ­excessive or unnecessary force, according to the arbitrator’s report.

The arbitrator concluded the city did have just cause to discipline the officer.

Prim refused to comment but issued a written statement stating that Harrison’s allegations were “utterly baseless.”

“I was never charged or disciplined, not once in my 27-year career, for violations of the use of force either in this case at issue or any other case, nor for tolerating or condoning use of force violations in those under my command,” the statement reads. “I have never been sued in civil court by any alleged victim of brutality.”

Harrison said he learned of the arbitrator’s conclusion in June and conducted his own investigation into the matter. He runs a Woodstock-based law practice with a focus on employment and labor law.

“You are talking about incidents involving unnecessary and excessive uses of force on people already in custody,” Harrison said. “This misconduct does happen in police departments, and it needs to be addressed properly. This information had to be brought to light.”

Prim said he followed proper protocol with regard to the incidents in question, according to his written statement issued Monday night.

“The only person in 27 years who has ever connected me with police brutality is [Jim] Harrison, who has never commanded law enforcement officers or deputies for a single day and has no knowledge of the Des Plaines Police Department,” the statement reads. “He should also remind himself that duly licensed officers of the court are held to a higher standard of truthfulness than simple political candidates.”

Prim retired last year from the Des Plaines Police Department and will face Undersheriff Andrew Zinke on the Republican ticket in the March 2014 primary election. Harrison would face the winner of that race in November 2014.

Harrison was a sheriff’s deputy for eight years before becoming a lawyer.

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