CHICAGO (CN) – A police sergeant can be sued for allegedly ordering the arrest of a fire department battalion chief who had committed no crime, just to humiliate him, a federal judge ruled.
Thomas Lally, a battalion chief for the Chicago Fire Department, filed suit over a 2008 incident in which he was allegedly belittled and arrested by the Chicago Police Department while supervising a fire response.
When two officers refused to provide him with a report number, Lally said he called their supervisor for help. But the supervisor instead helped the two cops mock Lally, according to the complaint.
Lally claimed he threatened to report the officers, so their supervisor put him in handcuffs and detained him at the precinct for about an hour. When he was eventually released, another officer urged Lally to lie and cover up for the police officers by saying he chose to go to the station, according to the pro se complaint. This officer allegedly “offered to purchase alcohol for him in exchange.”
Lally said he refused but received a police report the next morning that said his presence at the station was voluntary.
Almost two years later, Lally filed a civil rights suit against the police department and individual officers who allegedly abused him. In the complaint, however, he named one of the officers as Jane Doe and waited two months to file an amended action that named her as Officer Gonzalez. He also moved to file a second complaint that would correct a defendant listed as Sgt. Crawford to Sgt. Kaupert, saying the supervisor was not wearing a nametag and he misheard the name as the incident played out.
On July 7, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow approved the Kaupert substitution but said Lally waited too long to properly identify Gonzalez.
Lally’s naming of “Jane Doe” instead of “Officer Gonzalez” does not constitute a “mistake,” the 13-page ruling states.
“Plaintiff had sufficient information at the time that his original complaint was filed to have named Gonzalez in place of ‘Jane Doe;’ that he did not do is attributable not to an error in identifying Gonzalez but to a lack of knowledge,” Dow wrote. “Moreover, the record indicates that, later in the same month that he filed his original complaint, Plaintiff indicated in correspondence with the Chicago Police Department that he suspected that Gonzalez was Jane Doe. Yet, Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint naming Gonzalez as a defendant until nearly ten weeks after the limitations period expired.”
The misidentification of Kaupert is a different matter, however, because the judge found that the department had sufficient notice that Lally intended to sue the sergeant.
“Here, the objective evidence manifests Plaintiff’s intent to sue Sergeant Kaupert rather than Sergeant Crawford,” Dow wrote, adding that there is no Sgt. Crawford with the Police Department and that Lally provided the Department with Kaupert’s badge number.
“Because star numbers are unique identifiers, this service should have been sufficient for the Chicago Police Department to identify Officer Kaupert as the intended defendant,” Dow wrote.
Lally will have roughly two weeks to file his amended complaint naming Kaupert.