Chicago, IL – A convicted felon facing charges of impersonating a police officer was released from jail in March, after a judge allowed him to return to work at a police department that law enforcement officials determined does not exist.
Ellis, 59, flashed his Pembroke Township police badge and identification, and told the officer he was the township’s police commissioner.
But when the officer contacted the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office – the agency that covered the Pembroke Township jurisdiction – he was told that the township didn’t even have a police department.
Ellis was charged with impersonating a police officer, but it wasn’t the first time he has faced such a charge.
He was convicted of felony impersonation of a police officer in 1994 and 1996, and was sentenced to probation in both cases.
In 1997, he was convicted of arson, after he burned down a house to collect insurance money. Ellis was sentenced to three years in prison as a result.
On March 19, Ellis appeared before Judge Sandra Ramos in relation to his most recent impersonating a police officer offense, and presented her with a letter from the “Pembroke Township Police Department,” which he said was based in the small town of Hopkins Park, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The letter indicated that Ellis was scheduled to work 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
Ramos agreed to release Ellis on electronic monitoring, and said he could leave his West Englewood residence from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. each day, provided he was would be going to work at his law enforcement job.
Ramos said that Ellis’ release was “pending verification” of his employment status.
But when assistant State’s Attorney Amanda Pillsbury contacted the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office to verify Ellis’ claims, the convicted felon’s story didn’t check out.
“These individuals are trying to become chiefs of police and they are crooks,” a sheriff’s office official told her, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
Because Cook County Sheriff’s Office officials were unable to verify the existence of the department Ellis claimed to work for, his travel to Pembroke Township was not approved, the sheriff’s office said.
Prosecutors determined that Ellis had violated the conditions of his release, and have asked the court to return him to custody.
“The sheriff’s office verifies the movement for everyone in our electronic-monitoring program,” Cook County SO policy chief Cara Smith told the Chicago Sun times. “Mr. Ellis is no exception. To date, we have not been able to verify he has valid employment.”
Judge Carol Howard subsequently ordered Ellis to remain at his residence on electronic monitoring, until the court reconvenes on Monday to determine whether or not the Pembroke Township Police Department actually exists.
Ellis argued that those questioning his legitimacy as a law enforcement officer had a “racist” agenda, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
“They assumed because I live in Englewood and am black that I’m a liar,” he said.
His attorney, La Coulton Walls, blasted the “white racist Kankakee County” sheriff’s office, and said they had no authority over a township’s decision to implement a police force.
During an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Ellis showed a reporter paperwork he said was given to him by the Pembroke Township board on Feb. 20. The documents appointed Ellis as the police commissioner, and he claimed that two other individuals were also appointed as law enforcement officers on the same date, thereby forming the Pembroke Township Police Department.
He claimed that the appointment gave him full arrest powers, and said he collects a salary of $100 per year, plus “donations,” the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The convicted felon does not have a firearm owner’s identification card, and that he does not carry a duty weapon.
Ellis explained that his law enforcement career began in 1986, when he attended the Chicago Police Academy. He never joined the department, however.
He went on to establish the Beta Christian University in Harvey in the early 1990s, and implemented a campus security force. State officials determined that the operation was illegitimate, and shut it down.
Ellis then established a railroad – including a short track section and a small locomotive – and named himself chief of the railroad police police. He also established a police force for the “railroad,” and gave his “officers” badges.
The city of Harvey, which had its own legitimate police force, strongly opposed Ellis’ railroad, although it was not clear what brought that venture to an end.
“I always went through the system,” Ellis told the Chicago Sun Times, as he continued to insist that his law enforcement agencies were legal.
Ellis said he was also a member of the Dixmoor Park District Police during the mid-1990s, although he did not claim to have founded that department.
The small agency supposedly maintained a playground, but swelled to over 80 officers as the result of a badge-selling scheme, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
Ellis said he was appointed as the “superintendent of police and chaplains” for the agency in 1997.
In 2001, three other individuals associated with the department were convicted of federal charges related to the scheme, and were sent to prison. Ellis was not among those charged.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, a court-ordered psychological evaluation determined that Ellis was found to be “extremely self-aggrandizing, self-centered, narcissistic, controlling, manipulative and lacking in empathy.”
In addition to his claims of being a police officer, Ellis told the evaluator he was “a minister with doctorate degrees... a boat captain, a social activist, an administrator, a university professor and an aspiring politician,” the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The court will hear arguments regarding the legitimacy of the Pembroke Township Police Department on Monday.