Cicero police employee accused of domestic violence kept job despite investigator’s warning

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An internal police investigation sustained domestic violence allegations against a Cicero detention officer, and an investigator warned that keeping him on payroll would discredit the department. But the police suspended the alleged abuser instead. (Illustration by Veronica Martínez)

This story was produced in collaboration with Cicero Independiente.

CICERO, IL — In October 2019, a Cicero woman allegedly had her tires slashed, her phone smashed, and was beaten by Jose Delgado, a lockup keeper at the Cicero Police Department, according to police records.

She was Delgado’s romantic partner of 20 years. They had three children together.

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The department sustained the allegations against Delgado after an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS). And lead investigator James Klosak, who concluded that  Delgado lied during the probe, warned that keeping Delgado on the payroll was problematic.

“Domestic violence has a profound negative impact on the health and wellbeing of victimized individuals,” Klosak wrote in an investigative report obtained by Cicero Independiente.

“To allow [Delgado] to continue forward as an employee of the Cicero Police Department…would serve to tarnish the reputation of the Department; would bring discredit upon the Department” and Cicero, he argued.

But Superintendent Jerry Chlada Jr. suspended Delgado for about a month instead of firing him, police records show. The case is another example of how police departments often fail to hold their employees accountable for domestic violence allegations.

In 2003, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommended that every police department adopt a zero-tolerance stance toward employees accused of domestic violence, advising departments to fire alleged abusers when investigators find enough evidence to back the claims against them.

Cicero spokesperson Ray Hanania confirmed in an email earlier this month that Delgado was arrested for domestic battery last year and that prosecutors later dropped the charges. Hanania said Delgado hadn’t gotten any complaints since his suspension.

Cicero police chief Chlada didn’t respond to questions about how he handled the Delgado case. Delgado didn’t respond to requests for comment, either, although he has previously denied the domestic abuse allegations. Delgado’s alleged victim was unreachable. Investigator Klosak, who warned the Cicero Police Department about the consequences of not terminating Delgado, declined to be interviewed.

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Delgado and the woman got into a heated argument over the phone on Oct. 12, 2019, according to police reports. By the woman’s account, detailed in the reports, she wanted to go to a bar with her sister that night, but Delgado allegedly threatened to slash her tires if she did. Delgado’s partner found the tires slashed early the next morning when she returned from the bar with her sister and arrived at her sister’s house, where she’d left her car, according to police reports.

Delgado’s partner went home after that, but Cicero police arrived at her house to conduct a wellness check after her sister, worried for her safety, called 911, according to police reports. Delgado’s partner allegedly told the officers that she was having relationship issues with Delgado and that they were in the middle of a breakup. But then Delgado arrived at the scene in his car. An officer advised Delgado to go home, and he complied, police reported.

He allegedly returned 20 minutes later after officers cleared the scene and called his partner outside, the report states. When she entered his car, Delgado allegedly grabbed her iPhone, tried to access it, and then cracked and bent the device when he couldn’t unlock it, according to the woman’s account. Delgado, who is eight inches taller and twice her weight, allegedly slapped her on the right side of her face and punched her several times. She exited the vehicle, and Delgado drove away, according to the police report.

On Oct. 14, 2019, the woman spoke to Cicero police about what Delgado allegedly did to her. Delgado’s partner had previously told cops she did not know who slashed her tires. But she said during the Oct. 14 interview with police that she suspected Delgado had done it, according to police records. She said she did not dial 911 right away after the alleged abuse because Delgado is a Town of Cicero lockup keeper and she “did not want any trouble,” according to police records.

Police photographed five purple and red bruises on her left arm and took pictures of her smashed phone, records show. The reporting officer asked if Delgado’s partner was willing to sign a criminal complaint against Delgado for domestic battery. She refused, but the reporting officer signed on her behalf, according to the police report, ensuring that Cicero would further investigate the incident.

Though Delgado wasn’t a sworn officer, his alleged victim indicated she was hesitant to report his alleged behavior because he worked for the police department. Victims of police domestic violence face similar challenges when trying to file a complaint about a police officer, which can be intimidating, according to Diane Wetendorf. She is a former director of counseling at Life Span in Des Plaines and the author of several books on officer-involved domestic violence.

“If you call the police, you’ve got the police responding most of the time, and it’s in the same jurisdiction. So they’re his friends or coworkers that respond to the call. There’s a code of silence and the brotherhood of police culture. So what usually happens is the focus is more on protecting the officer than the victim,” Wetendorf said.

However, on Oct. 14, 2019, Delgado was stopped near 37th Street and 53rd Avenue by a Cicero police officer and arrested for domestic battery and criminal damage to property, police records show. Delgado was never convicted criminally, and it’s unclear from court records why prosecutors dropped the charges. But Cicero launched an administrative investigation into the allegations to determine if he should face discipline. The investigation lasted less than a month.

James Klosak, the lead investigator on the case, interrogated Delgado on October 24, 2019.

While questioning Delgado about the actions that led to his arrest, OPS investigator Klosak asked Delgado if he struck his partner. According to the investigation report, Delgado denied hitting the woman and said he didn’t recall if he had damaged the phone. When asked how his partner obtained her injuries, Delgado allegedly claimed that she had caught him with another woman and that he was the one struck and injured, according to the investigation report.

Klosak wrote in his findings that the woman was “clearly” a victim of domestic violence and that Delgado, the alleged perpetrator, “lacks integrity,” accusing Delgado of lying about hitting his partner and smashing her phone. The internal police investigation recommended the town fire him, concluding that Delgado had violated several department rules, including engaging in an “unjustified physical altercation” with the woman and bringing discredit to the department.

But according to the Town of Cicero code of ordinances, the power to determine how a police officer is disciplined remains with the police superintendent.

Although the OPS occasionally makes a disciplinary recommendation, it “shall be limited to remedial measures,” and there is no guarantee the police superintendent will follow it. Records show Delgado served a 30-day suspension without pay earlier this year and is still a Cicero police lockup keeper.

Contributing editing and project management by Injustice Watch co-editor Adeshina Emmanuel and reporter Carlos Ballesteros.