Skokie Police Officer Michael Hart, who was charged with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct after a woman sued him for severely injuring her at the Skokie police station, has resigned.
The Skokie Police Department and Village of Skokie notified him last week they were seeking his immediate termination, according to a statement, but police union rules grant officers a 10-day period to decide whether they want to pursue arbitration.
The incident, which occurred March 10, came to light in early October, when Cassandra Feuerstein, the woman who was being processed in the Skokie Police Station for DUI, sued Hart and the village, releasing a now-famous video that showed Hart shoving her into a holding cell so forcefully that Feuerstein's cheekbone area hit a cement bench, breaking bones and requiring her to have multiple surgeries and a titanium plate inserted, according to her lawyer. She suffered severe pain and has loose teeth and other ongoing medical problems.
The village placed Hart on leave after the Cook County State's Attorney charged him with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct charges Oct. 30.
Here is the statement the village of Skokie released Nov. 15:
Village of Skokie and Skokie Police officials announced on November 15 that an officer facing felony assault charges for an on-duty incident has resigned from the force effective today.
Last week, the Village notified Michael Hart that based upon its internal investigation, it would seek to terminate him for violations of Skokie Police Department rules and regulations. This decision was related to his role in an incident where a woman suffered injuries after her March 10, 2013 arrest on DUI charges.
An internal investigation launched following the incident found that Hart violated the Department’s rules and regulations.
As required in the Village’s agreement with the patrol officers’ union, Hart was given ten days to decide whether he would require the Village to file charges seeking his termination or proceed via grievance arbitration. Before that ten-day period elapsed, Hart, a 19-year veteran of the Skokie Police Department, tendered his resignation to the Chief of Police.
Following the filing of criminal charges by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office late last month, the Village stripped Hart of his police powers and placed him on administrative leave. Upon completion of its investigation, Skokie Village Manger Al Rigoni and Skokie Chief of Police Anthony Scarpelli made the determination that his violations of Department rules warranted termination.
This is the first time in decades that a Skokie Police officer has been charged criminally for an on-duty-related incident. It is also the first time in many years that Skokie Police sought termination of an officer for duty-related conduct.
“Police officers have a very difficult, stressful job. We entrust them with the authority to enforce the law and keep our community safe,” said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. “However, we also have the expectation that they will treat all people, even those who break the law, with the utmost professionalism. When officers fall short of that expectation, it is our responsibility to take proper action, as the Village has done in this case.”
“While this is an extremely unfortunate incident, I am proud that the Police Department took proper steps to investigate this matter fully in order to get at the facts,” said Skokie Village Manager Al Rigoni.