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Local News

Joliet councilman questions task force independence in police-involved death investigations

Joliet Councilman Terry Morris listens at a City Council meeting. Morris at Tuesday's council meeting questioned whether the Will Grundy County Major Crimes Task Force is independent enough to investigate police-involved death investigations.
Joliet Councilman Terry Morris listens at a City Council meeting. Morris at Tuesday's council meeting questioned whether the Will Grundy County Major Crimes Task Force is independent enough to investigate police-involved death investigations.

Joliet City Councilman Terry Morris has questioned whether the Will-Grundy County Major Crimes Task Force is independent enough to investigate police-involved deaths.

When interim City Manager Steve Jones at Tuesday’s council meeting said the task force was the “independent agency” that investigated the death of Eric Lurry, Morris said that the task force is “not considered an outside agency.” He said he doesn’t know the task force members but suggested they may go to school or attend church with officers they are tasked with investigating.

Morris said he wasn’t questioning any of the task force’s findings of police-involved deaths in Joliet. However, he said he doesn’t think those investigations have the appearance of being independent because he believes the task force’s members – drawn from many local police departments – are familiar with each other.

“Basically, you are still working with the guy in the other jurisdiction. I just think when it’s an independent investigation, that’s not transparent or clear enough for me,” Morris said.

Morris said he’s had the same concerns about the task force in the past and the Lurry case “probably just enhanced” his view. Morris has pushed for an Illinois Attorney General’s Office investigation into Lurry’s death.

Task force chairman Ken Kroll said the task force is an outside agency and no one from the Joliet Police Department was involved in the investigation of the Lurry case.

“If the sheriff has an incident, no one from the Will County Sheriff’s Office would be involved in the investigation. If Romeoville Police Department has an incident, no one from Romeoville would be involved,” Kroll said.

The Will County Coroner’s Office determined Lurry died from fatal intoxication of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.

Kroll said 2016 probably was the year when the task force began investigations for Joliet police, but he didn’t have numbers on how many were completed. Last year, the task force investigated a detective’s fatal shooting of a robbery suspect and an officer’s fatal shooting of a man during a chaotic hostage situation. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow deemed both shootings justified.

Kroll couldn’t recall whether any Joliet city official has raised issues about the task force not being independent enough to investigate police-involved deaths in the past.

“I don’t know if that was ever brought up or not. I can’t say,” Kroll said.

He said he would welcome an investigation of the Lurry case from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office or any other agency.

“I have great faith in the work of the Will-Grundy County Major Crimes Task Force,” he said.

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and police Chief Al Roechner did not respond to calls about Morris’ issues with the task force.

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