Special Treatment or Just Procedure?

Article excerpt

Byline: John OConnor Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD Illinois Department of Corrections officials are struggling to explain whether they followed proper procedures after the drunken driving arrest of a prison officer who is the son of the agencys chief investigator.

Jeffrey Beck had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit Feb. 27 when the pickup he was driving east of Springfield left the road and smashed through two walls of a home, hurling the occupant and his easy chair into the next room, according to authorities. The homeowner was not seriously injured. Beck was reportedly treated for a head injury.

The 27-year-old Beck, a prison guard at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, is the son of Larry Beck, DOCs chief of investigations and intelligence, who oversees everything from probes of employee misconduct to suppression of inmate gang activity.

Jeffery Beck has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level of 0.257. His next court appearance is Monday.

Inquiries by The Associated Press have raised questions about how Corrections treated the incident.

Investigators have not opened an internal review to determine if discipline might eventually be warranted. And Larry Beck did not notify his boss that he had a conflict of interest as manager of prison investigators, as state administrative rules require.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press in August, the agency initially found no copy of an incident report the younger Beck was required to file. But 2 1/2 months later, it provided the AP with the report, although it omits required information and purportedly was submitted by Beck just hours after he was treated in a hospital emergency room. It wasnt signed by his superior until three days later.

Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said the episode has been handled no differently than any other like it, and that Beck got no preferential treatment because of who he is.

"Appropriate department procedures have been, and will continue to be followed in this matter," Solano said. "Jeffrey Beck has not and will not receive any special treatment, nor will any other individual."

But others say details of the DOC handling of the case need closer examination. Sen. Kirk Dillard, the Senate Judiciary Committees top Republican, told the AP he was troubled by the possibility that the incident was not properly reported. He said he wants the states Executive Inspector General "to immediately intervene and find out if theres a cover-up."

"If its an investigator and it involves their child, it should be immediately handed over to a neutral party for investigation. That should be done instantly," said Dillard, of Hinsdale, who pushed legislation to inform the public about inmate discharges after an early-release scandal in 2009. "This is a law enforcement agency and its had a history of credibility issues with the public and the General Assembly, so it should be extra, extra cautious."

Steve Harter was at home watching the Daytona 500 on TV in the small town of Buffalo about 6:30 p. …