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Outside panel may review Brown's police investigation
By Dan Rozek and Sandra Del Re | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/29/2008 4:33 PM

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First published: April 17, 1996

An outside review into the police investigation of the 1993 Brown's Chicken murders is almost as unprecedented and surprising as the murders themselves, some crime experts say. Two Chicago-based civic groups are expected to announce today that they are taking the unusual step of naming a panel to review the 3 1/2-year-old investigation into the slayings of seven Palatine restaurant workers.

"It's highly unusual," DePaul University law Professor John Decker said of the independent review. "It certainly is unusual that a (civic) organization would step into the middle of an ongoing investigation that could be impeded."

The Better Government Association and Chicago Crime Commission are expected to name a panel of academicians and former law enforcement officers to review the Palatine police investigation into the 1993 murders.

A key issue the panel is expected to study will be whether the police task force assembled after seven restaurant workers were slain at Brown's mishandled the investigation.

The concept of an outside review of a continuing police investigation is almost unheard of, not only in the Midwest but anywhere in the nation, one expert says.

"I can't think of another place where this has happened," said Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, who has written extensively on mass murders. "Many investigations (into mass killings) have been unsuccessful, yet there's a lot of confidence in police and task forces."

Palatine police have offered little information to the public, saying they feared such disclosures could harm efforts to catch the killer or killers.

Even BGA Director J. Terrence Brunner admits organizing the panel is "a little different" than the actions usually taken by the BGA, a long-standing civic group that has focused on political corruption, and more recently has opposed the spread of legalized gambling in Illinois.

Still, he defends the idea of an outside look at how the taxpayer-funded police agencies have handled the Brown's investigation.

"It's an ongoing investigation, but at a certain point there has to be accountability," Brunner said. "If you accept their reasoning, no one in law enforcement would ever be held accountable for anything."

But some outside legal experts question what the review might accomplish, considering it would lack power to subpoena witnesses or records - and in fact would lack any legal authority.

"What are they going to come up with?" Decker questioned. "Usually, investigating authorities have carte blanche, total control in what they investigate and how they pursue it."

Palatine Village President Rita L. Mullins said she has never doubted the ability of the Palatine Police Department to solve the Brown's murders or lost confidence in them, despite some public criticism.

"They questioned the capabilities of our police department," she said. "I talked to people from the FBI and the Chicago Police Department. I got nothing but good remarks about they way things had been handled."