"Pursuant to rule 26 of the rules of the City Council found in Title 1, Chapter 5, Section 5 of the Alton City Code, I call on the Mayor Pro Tem to assume the chair so that I may address the Council from the podium.
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Title 3, Chapter 3, Section 2A of the Alton City Code clearly states that “the chief of police shall continue to serve until removed by order of the mayor or until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, whichever shall occur first.”
Pursuant to that statutory language, I hereby exercise my rights as Mayor to retain Jake Simmons as Police Chief. I have no intention of removing him from office, nor do I have any intention of nominating anyone else for the position.
Let me be clear, Chief Simmons has my full and unqualified support. Under his leadership, crime has decreased substantially in Alton and business is, by any measurable standard, doing much better than it did under previous leadership. Chief Simmons has always acted with my approval and on the advice of legal counsel. He is an honorable man who has served the City of Alton with distinction for 22 years, and it is shameful that there are those who have dedicated themselves to tarnishing his reputation solely for political and personal reasons.
What we have witnessed of late has been nothing more than a politically motivated character assassination of one of the finest individuals to ever serve this City. And it is disgusting. This kind of exercise is exactly why the general public has a disdain for government.
Now, I’d like to address the video that was improperly released and aired on local news last night.
I only became aware of it last night when contacted by the media and I certainly take it very seriously. Rest assured that after a proper internal investigation, appropriate discipline will be handed down.
The Police Chief has followed all of the proper procedures regarding an excessive use of force incident such as this.
I have asked Chief Simmons to provide me with all information pertaining to this case and to keep me regularly informed about the investigation and forthcoming discipline. Again, I would like to reiterate that we take this incident extremely seriously, and proper discipline will be administered.
What I don’t understand is why someone from within the Alton Police Department would violate Police Department policy, and the City’s Red Flag Rules, in order to improperly release such a video. That, in and of itself, is a serious offense. What happens when an officer decides to take it upon themselves to release a piece of evidence that causes a major felony case to be compromised?
The behavior in the video, and the improper release of the video, are exactly the types of behavior that Chief Simmons has been working so hard to end in the Alton Police Department. He has held officers accountable for their actions and that doesn’t always sit well with an employee.
Next, there has been much noise made in recent days about morale in the Alton Police Department, and the concern of some members of this Council about that issue.
What strikes me as disingenuous about that concern is that I can find no record of any such concern for morale dating back to 2012 when there were more than twelve grievances and multiple temporary restraining orders relating to the administrative actions of the previous Police Chief.
The only difference I can find between 2012 and the present is the fact that I am the Mayor and Jake Simmons is the Police Chief.
If you really want to talk about what hurts morale, you need look no further than Monday night when a speaker was presented who used the tragic death of a young woman and the trauma it caused an officer and her family as a means to attack the Police Chief. Using the traumatic experience of an officer in such a manner is sickening.
Morale is further hurt when an officer takes it upon themselves to improperly release a video of an extremely serious incident. Release of that video prior to the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation violates the due process rights of another officer in what can only be an attempt to sow discord in the community.
I also want to address another issue that has been raised by this Council at various times in recent weeks and that is the amending of an Internal Affairs investigation by the Chief of Police.
Following a review of that specific IA by the Chief of Police and the City’s legal counsel, it was determined that, based on the interviews conducted in the IA, the investigating officer failed to recognize numerous issues and policy violations concerning supervision of the evidence vault and the duties of various supervisors.
Subsequently, and in consultation with legal counsel, the findings of the IA were amended by the Chief of Police as allowed by the written policies and procedures of the Alton Police Department.
In 2012, the City’s legal counsel assisted the previous Police Chief in amending the findings of an unrelated internal affairs investigation, conducted by a member of the Madison County State’s Attorney’s office, of a sexual harassment claim. To my knowledge, records relating to any objections of any City Council member to that amendment of an IA simply do not exist.
In closing, let me say again, Chief Simmons has my full and unqualified support. Pursuant to state statute and our own city code, he will remain as Chief going forward. I will not debate that decision any further. Our City faces a $1.8 million budget shortfall and the decisions we are forced to make in the coming days and weeks will affect the daily lives of the citizens of Alton. That is where our focus should be.
It is time for an end to these petty political games. The citizens of Alton deserve better from their elected leaders. The voters will sort out the politics when they next cast their votes. It is time for us to focus on the serious issues facing Alton, and for all of us to live up to the oath we took to serve this great City."
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