August 8 - CHICAGO - Over the years, cops have ripped off drug dealers, shaken down drivers and pocketed mob bribes. But Chicago Police Officer Barbara Nevers allegedly aimed lower.
Nevers, 55, was suspended for 15 months and ordered into counseling for allegedly using her gun and badge to demand free coffee and pastries from six Starbucks stores on the North Side between 2001 and 2004.
Employees told the Chicago Police Board that Starbucks had an unofficial policy of giving a free tall cup of drip coffee to cops and firefighters in uniform. But Nevers -- a desk officer for most of her 14-year career because of a neck injury she suffered in the police academy -- would usually come into Starbucks in plain clothes. She regularly flashed her gun, and sometimes her badge, to get free coffee at Starbucks near her home, including stores at 3358 N. Broadway, 2525 1/2 N. Clark, 617 W. Diversey, 1000 W. Diversey, 1700 W. Diversey and 1157 W. Wrightwood, employees said.
"She was vehement about getting the free pastries," testified Cara Carothers, who managed the store at 1700 W. Diversey. "This woman is aggressive." Nevers' attorney Tom Needham told the board "My client took advantage of a custom. She's not the only police officer that's been offered coffee." But a city attorney said it's against police policy for officers to accept such freebies.
Nevers claimed she always put a $2 tip in the jar whenever she got a free cup of joe and denied ever flashing her gun or asking for free pastries for herself. "I said, 'If you have any broken pastries or ones that you toss out, I will take them because I feed the birds,' " Nevers told the board.
In June, five members of the police board found her guilty of retail theft, using her position for official gain, unnecessary display of a weapon, mistreatment of a person and other offenses. They voted for Nevers' 15-month suspension and counseling. Two board members dissented, saying they would have imposed a stricter punishment, records show.