By Kayce T. Ataiyero | Tribune staff reporter
November 8, 2007

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A former Oak Lawn police officer was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail Wednesday on charges he extorted money from people he pulled over in early-morning traffic stops, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office.

Steven Harrison, 26, is accused of pulling over five drivers between Sept. 18 and Sept. 27 and telling them they had committed traffic offenses such as driving without a valid license or not having insurance, prosecutors said. He then would threaten the motorists, some of whom spoke limited English, with fines or jail if they did not pay him, officials said.

In some cases, Harrison would instruct the drivers to call friends and family for the money, prosecutors said.

In one case, Harrison is accused of telling a man that he needed to pay him $160 because he was driving without a license or insurance. The victim said he did not have the money, and Harrison told him to call friends and relatives to bring him the money, officials said. When that failed, Harrison told the driver to go home and get the money and bring it back to him at the Oak Lawn police station or else an arrest warrant would be issued, officials said.

Authorities said that after the driver returned with the money, Harrison gave him a pink ticket sheet with "$160" written on it. According to officials, when the motorist asked if it was a ticket, Harrison responded, "That's the way we do it in the suburbs"

In another case, Harrison is accused of telling a driver he had "two options. Go to jail or pay $100," according to prosecutors.

All five motorists identified Harrison in a lineup, prosecutors said. The beginnings of two of the traffic stops were captured by Harrison's squad car camera, prosecutors said. Harrison is charged with five counts of official misconduct, five counts of theft by deception and three counts of intimidation.

He appeared in Cook County Circuit Court on Wednesday before Judge Donald Panarese. His next court date is scheduled for Dec. 5.