Chicago Cop Rightly Fired |After Woman’s Suicide

     (CN) – A Chicago police officer was properly fired for spending time with a domestic-violence victim who later picked up his gun and killed herself, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled.
     Sgt. Steven Lesner responded to a domestic violence call from Catherine Weiland and her boyfriend at North Side restaurant in February 2009.
     Two other officers responded to the call and removed the boyfriend. Lesner then offered Weiland a ride home in his police car.
     On the way back to her apartment, Weiland asked Lesner to stop and buy her a bottle of wine. He agreed.
     Lesner stayed at Weiland’s apartment for 40 minutes, talking to her brother and father, who lived in separate units in the same building.
     He agreed to drive them back to the restaurant to retrieve Weiland’s car. Lesner also gave Weiland a card with his personal cell-phone number.
     She used it to call Lesner and invite him back to her apartment for a drink after his shift. Lesner put his duty firearm in his locker and strapped his auxiliary firearm to his ankle.
     Lesner bought beer for himself and more wine for Weiland before returning to her apartment. While they were watching television, Lesner had his feet on a table and took off the gun when he thought Weiland was not looking, because “it looks kind of stupid.”
     When Lesner went to use the restroom, Weiland picked up his gun and shot herself in the head.
     An investigation revealed that Weiland had been bipolar and had not been taking her medication.
     Lesner was placed on other duties before returning to patrol in 2011, where he stayed for 2 1/2 years before the superintendent recommended a 60-day suspension.
     The nine-member civilian police board disagreed, calling Lesner’s decisions “reprehensible” and deciding that Lesner “must be discharged from his position due to the serious nature of the conduct of which (the superintendent) found him guilty.”
     Lesner took the case to court on an administrative review. The trial court ruled that the police board had authority to fire him, even if the superintendent recommended a lesser penalty.
     The Illinois Appellate Court agreed in a decision written by Justice Michael Hyman.
     He wrote in the June 15 decision that the language of state and city law “leads to the reasonable conclusion that after the superintendent makes a recommendation, the police board conducts its own hearing and has authority to make a decision about the appropriate discipline.
     “Any other interpretation would obviate the need for a hearing before the police board,” Hyman added.
     He added that the police board’s decision was not unreasonable and should be upheld.
     “Lesner ignored several department rules and exhibited a complete lack of judgment by purchasing alcohol while in uniform for a woman who was distraught over a domestic dispute, using his position to further a personal relationship with her.” Hyman wrote.
     Presiding Justice Daniel Pierce dissented from his colleagues.
     “Rather than viewing the board as a ‘bureaucratic rubber stamp,’ I view the ordinance creating the office of superintendent and the police board as an expression of the Chicago city council that the ultimate penalty of discharge vests in the superintendent, and in recognition of the due process rights of police personnel, discharge can only be effectuated upon the recommendation of the superintendent and the concurrence of the police board,” Pierce wrote.

%d bloggers like this: