(CN) – An Illinois police officer may have abused conditional privilege by telling coworkers that another officer was hurting her reputation, the Cook County Circuit Court ruled.
Country Club Hills, Ill. police officer Bonnie Beach sent a letter to five officers outside her chain of command, accusing former coworker Edward Anderson of defamation, sexual discrimination and assault, the ruling states.
Beach invoked correct privilege when she sent the 6-page letter to her superior officer, the appellate panel ruled, but not when she made copies for several patrol officers, SWAT team members and a lieutenant that was not her superior.
The letter claimed that Anderson failed to clear a residence after a burglar alarm sounded, failed to provide backup to Beach in an incident in which a person chased someone with a baseball bat, and was sexually discriminatory towards Beach and tried to hit her. Beach also said Anderson isolated her from other officers by telling them she was lazy and not a good officer, according to the ruling.
Anderson said Beach made the claims because the two disagreed about the validity of digital evidence and because “she was jealous that he was a better police officer,” Judge Cahill wrote.
The appeals court determined that Beach’s decision to send the letter to her coworkers was not protected under absolute privilege, which allows officers to report rule and law violations, because the officers were not her superiors.
Though she could invoke conditional privilege, determining that it was in the other officers’ interest to know of Anderson’s misconduct, Beach may have abused that privilege by failing to investigate the truth of her accusations, only seeking to harm Anderson, the ruling states.
The three-judge panel reversed dismissal and remanded the case to the trial court to determine the validity of Beach’s accusations against Anderson.