Harvey cop charged with domestic battery in Will County

Det. Jeffrey Crocker, 44, of Beecher faces a domestic battery charge after he was arrested by New Lenox police late Saturday night, according to court and jail records. (Will County Sheriff Dept. / July 22, 2014)

A Harvey police officer with a history of allegations of abuse has been arrested in Will County and accused of domestic battery.

Det. Jeffrey Crocker, 44, of Beecher, faces a domestic battery charge after he was arrested by New Lenox police late Saturday night, according to court and jail records.

New Lenox Deputy Chief Robert Pawlisz said officers were called to a domestic dispute at 10:42 p.m. in the 800 block of Eastwind Drive and determined there was probable cause to arrest Crocker. Pawlisz declined to provide further details. Court records show Crocker's ex-girlfriend lives on the block.

Crocker told the Tribune today that he was at his child’s graduation party at the home of her mother – his ex-girlfriend – when he got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend. Crocker said the boyfriend made a gesture with his hands that appeared threatening, so Crocker, to defend himself, hit the boyfriend. Crocker said the ex-girlfriend joined in the altercation, which left him with a black eye, until it ended and he called 911.

Crocker spent Sunday in jail and was released on bond late Monday after pleading not guilty, according to jail and court records.

Crocker was one of several officers featured in a Tribune investigation in February that looked at how Harvey had become arguably the most lawless community in the area, with a high rate of violent crime, few arrests and some officers with checkered pasts. The series exposed how, among other things, Illinois does little to police the police, unlike other states that far more aggressively weed problem officers out of the profession.

In Crocker's case, Harvey had to pay nearly $180,000 to settle a civil lawsuit in which he was accused of brutally and falsely arresting an elderly PACE driver, in an incident PACE later described as an "unprovoked physical assault." Crocker told the Tribune it was a legitimate arrest and he did nothing wrong, but he said the suburb settled to avoid potentially higher legal costs.

The series also reported how Crocker previously had two orders of protection against him after his ex-girlfriend accused him of punching her and, later, of threatening to burn her house down. Crocker told the Tribune the allegations were made up as retaliation for him reporting her alleged misconduct to police. He noted he wasn't charged in either case.

Crocker said he was placed on administrative leavefrom the department and voluntarily turned in his duty weapon Tuesday.

jmahr@tribune.com