Smile Politely

Come on, Chief

In March, the Champaign Exchange Club honored Officer Jerad Gale as the Champaign Police Officer of the Year. In June, Gale was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, and aggravated domestic battery for incidents spanning a number of years in Champaign and Piatt Counties.

What happened between March and June in the handling of Officer Gale by the CPD is bizarre.

On May 5th, Gale was accused by a former girlfriend of sexual assault. She went to the University of Illinois Police Department to tell them about it after speaking with on-campus counselors. The Illinois State Police then took over the investigation and Gale was allowed to continue his work as a CPD officer.

On May 23rd, he helped save the life of a gunshot victim and was commended for his work by the CPD on June 3rd. The story is actually pretty remarkable. Gale and fellow officer Robert DeLong essentially assessed life-threatening injuries and helped stabilize a the victim before an ambulance arrived. It’s the stuff out of a cop drama on TV. Commendation for saving the life of a citizen is almost always deserved and, frankly, that’s one of the things police officers are supposed to do.

The interesting thing about this is that Gale was still allowed to stay on his beat in Champaign with an on-going sexual assault investigation happening. Other departments throughout the country have suspended officers for less while investigations are ongoing — with or without pay. Why was Gale allowed to continue to work?

We reached out to Cobb for comment and asked about why the CPD moved forward with their commendation of Gale on June 3rd, knowing that he was under investigation. Cobb responded with this statement:

Jerad Gale did not have charges filed against him until June 23, 2015. Illinois State Police began investigating the allegations against Gale on May 12.  My staff was not aware of the alleged offenses against Gale at the time of the June 3 posting. 

It’s a non-answer, which is to be expected. It appears that Cobb is suggesting that there was no communication between the Illinois State Police and the Champaign Police Department about an investigation of a police officer.

Come on, Chief.

That directly contradicts what University Police Chief Jeff Christensen said to the News-Gazette:

“We responded appropriately to a very difficult situation,” he said. “Everyone was in the loop as it developed. Representatives of the Champaign Police Department and the Illinois State Police were notified and they coordinated with Julia (Rietz),” Christensen said.

It also contradicts what Cobb told the News-Gazette:

He said he first became aware of the allegations against Gale on May 12.

Now, of course, Cobb can say that he knew about the allegations but the rest of the staff did not, thus, anyone involved in the commendation of Gale would have been out of the loop and would not have known. That’s a fair point. But as the face of the CPD, you’d think that you’d put the kibosh on any posts commending an officer with impending sexual assault charges.

Regardless, the question still remains as to why Gale was allowed to continue working. If Cobb knew about the allegations on May 12th, then May 12th should have been the day that Gale was placed on administrative leave or at the very least temporarily taken off of his beat.

This isn’t a one-time sexual assault issue with Gale, either. There are three women that have similar stories of him forcing them to perform sex acts against their will over the course of about a decade. The allegation that got the ball rolling on the investigation was that he anally penetrated an ex-girlfriend while holding her down and choking her.

Of course, Gale deserves his day in court — these are allegations, he’s not convicted of any crimes yet. But keeping an officer out of the limelight while there’s an ongoing investigation for these crimes should have been a no-brainer for the CPD.

It looks especially bad for the department when State’s Attorney Julia Rietz thinks the case against Gale is a winner:

“We are confident in the strength of our evidence, which is why we have proceeded as we have,” Rietz said.

Had Gale been suspended, though, saving the life of a gunshot victim may not have happened and we get into all kinds of chaos theory and butterfly effect-type scenarios. That’s beside the point, anyway. If there’s a major investigation into criminal activity by a police officer in this community, the right thing to do is to let the investigation play out while he’s on desk duty.

And, in what seems to be a weekly occurrence, some words of wisdom for the News-Gazette — cut the shit on the veiled victim blaming.

Saying a victim was “sent packing to police with allegations,” is an awful choice of words.

Making sure to state that these sexual assault allegations had nothing to do with Gale’s work as an officer is just weird. Power dynamics and all of that come in to play.

And the inconsistent nature of using Rietz’s quotes about why the victim didn’t come forward is asinine.

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