Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Black Prison Guard Highlights 4 ‘False Arrests’

JOLIET, Ill. (CN) - An Illinois corrections officer says in Federal Court that his hometown's predominantly white police force makes a habit of arresting black residents like him without cause.

The complaint Henry Godfrey filed Wednesday against Bolingbrook, four of its officers and one detective, says Godfrey has been subject to false arrest in the village repeatedly over the years.

Since September 2013, Godfrey has allegedly been acquitted of two separate criminal cases, and the charges in a third case were dismissed earlier this year.

In addition to filing false reports, Bolingbrook officers have contacted Godfrey's bosses at Stateville Correctional Center, "trying to get plaintiff fired as recently as March, 2015," the complaint states.

Godfrey notes that Will County village's police force is "predominantly white and Caucasian," and that the department has either "by conscious choice or deliberate indifference failed to train its police officers to make arrests based on probable cause."

CityData.com notes that 20.5 percent of Bolingbrook's 73,936 residents are black alone, a population percentage that is higher than the state average.

Godfrey nevertheless notes "that the harassment, intimidation, and false arrests of African American residents is so pervasive by Bolingbrook police officers, that this conduct constitutes an official policy of Bolingbrook."

Before Bolingbrook officers brought the three most recent criminal cases against Godfrey, he was arrested without probable cause and harassed in November 2012 and on March 5, 2013, according to the complaint.

Godfrey says he wrote a letter to the mayor on March 6 regarding the unlawful arrests, but that the village ignored his citizen's complaint and instead lets the officers send his bosses "false reports" to have him fired.

Officer Bradley Kurtzwell was involved both in Godfrey's March 23, 2013, arrest for a DUI and his Aug. 20, 2014, arrest for impersonating a police officer.

Officers Kristofer Schrubbe and Michael Kraus participated in that August false arrest, the complaint states, noting that the officers filed the charges despite knowing "that plaintiff was an Illinois correctional officer and had not committed any crime.

Godfrey says Officer Andrew Sraga and Detective Nicholas Azzo were behind the July 28, 2013, false incident reports that accused him of calling in a fake police report. The guard seeks damages and injunctive relief for false arrest, malicious prosecution and violations of his federal civil rights. He is represented by John Schrock of Sabuco, Beck, Hansen, Massino, Schrock & Pollack.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.