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Degrazio v. Civil Service Com.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. WILLIAM J. EOVALDI, Judge, presiding.


The plaintiff, Anthony DeGrazio, a former lieutenant of police of the city of Chicago, was removed from office following a hearing before the Civil Service Commission of the city. The circuit court of Cook County reviewed the proceedings under the Administrative Review Act and affirmed the order of the Commission. The plaintiff has appealed directly to this court, a constitutional question being involved.

The charges filed against the plaintiff by the Commissioner of Police alleged that the plaintiff was guilty of conduct unbecoming a police officer and was guilty of disobedience of orders by associating and fraternizing with one Anthony Accardo, a person known to have a criminal record, in violation of Rule 309 of the Rules and Regulations of the Chicago Police Department, which provides that "No member or employee of the Department shall associate or fraternize with persons known to have criminal records." An amended charge against the plaintiff specified that he was guilty of conduct unbecoming a policeman in that he brought disgrace, disrepute and ridicule upon the police department (Rule 374(5),) by openly and flagrantly travelling from the United States to and through Europe with the said Accardo, who was alleged to be a person of ill repute in the community served by the Chicago Police Department.

The first contention advanced by the plaintiff in this court is that Rule 309 of the Chicago Police Department is invalid. It is claimed that the rule fails to define what is meant by association and fraternization; it refers to persons "known to have criminal records" without specifying whether the required knowledge is that of an individual officer, the police department, or the general public; it uses the term "criminal records" without specifying whether this means the record of an arrest or the record of a conviction or whether the criminal offense must be a felony or a misdemeanor; it does not specify whether one or more arrests or convictions are sufficient to constitute a criminal record; and does not specify whether the arrests or convictions need be of recent origin or of the remote past.

The evidence, which will be discussed in more detail later in the opinion, shows that Accardo had a record of 4 convictions for disorderly conduct, the earliest of which was in 1923 and the latest in 1933. The proceedings before the Commission were in 1960. Accardo's police record showed, in addition to these 4 convictions, several indictments and arrests and one acquittal by a jury on a Federal charge.

The Police Commissioner testified that in his opinion an indictment constituted a criminal record, whether the person was found guilty or not, and that he considered a man to have a criminal record whether his convictions were for felonies or misdemeanors. In this court the Commission takes the position that a conviction is not necessary to constitute a criminal record for it claims that such a record is a record relating to prosecutions for a State felony or misdemeanor conviction. The Commission apparently concedes that a charge of a violation of a city ordinance would not constitute a criminal record. On this point plaintiff states that numerous traffic violations which are made criminal offenses by the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic may also constitute violation of a city ordinance regulating traffic and argues that it is inconsistent to say that a violation of a State statute forbidding speeding, for example, is a criminal record while a violation of a city ordinance forbidding the same conduct is not. He also argues that it is unreasonable to consider that a person has a criminal record so as to prohibit a police officer from associating with him when the only record is a record of misdemeanor convictions, the latest of which was 26 years before the alleged association.

The rules of a police department are administrative regulations and have the force and effect of law. (Harrison v. Civil Service Com. 1 Ill.2d 137.) Therefore, they must be construed by the same standards governing the construction of statutes. (2 Am.Jur.2d, Administrative Law, sec. 298, p. 125.) A statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application, violates the first essential of due process of law. (Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 12 L.ed.2d 377, 84 S.Ct. 1316; Hershey Mfg. Co. v. Adamowski, 22 Ill.2d 36.) A further test of the validity of a law or regulation is whether it is a reasonable method to accomplish a certain objective. Thompson v. Consolidated Gas Utilities Corp. 300 U.S. 55, 81 L.ed. 510, 57 S.Ct. 364; People ex rel. Doty v. Connell, 9 Ill.2d 390.

Tested by these standards we are of the opinion that the rule is invalid. The very fact that the language of the rule is susceptible to the varying interpretations put upon it by the parties demonstrates its vagueness and we agree with the plaintiff that the rule is so vague that persons of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. If the rule be construed in the manner in which it was construed by the Police Commissioner and the Commission, so as to prohibit association with all persons who had been arrested or indicted, regardless of whether they were acquitted, and regardless of the time of the arrest or conviction or the nature of the offense, the rule is invalid as being unreasonable and bearing no proper relation to the end sought to be accomplished. We therefore sustain the plaintiff's contention as to Rule 309.

Our holding as to the invalidity of the rule does not, however, dispose of the case. The amended charge alleged that the plaintiff brought disgrace, disrepute and ridicule upon the Police Department by openly and flagrantly travelling to and through Europe with Accardo. It was stipulated at the hearing before the Commission that an airline reservation clerk would testify that Mrs. Accardo made reservations for Mr. Accardo and a Mr. Beck. Mrs. Accardo furnished the clerk with an itinerary and had the clerk make necessary hotel reservations. Another clerk would testify that two days thereafter the reservations in the name of Beck were changed to a reservation in the name of the plaintiff. An assistant manager of the airline would testify that the plaintiff and Accardo left Chicago together on a flight to London. It was stipulated that the plaintiff's wife and Mrs. Accardo left together on another flight to London and that upon their arrival the two couples stayed at the same hotel where they had a 3-room connecting suite. The entire hotel bill was paid by the plaintiff. It was stipulated that from London the plaintiff and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Accardo travelled throughout Europe for a period of more than one month.

The Police Commissioner testified that he knew the reputation of Mr. Accardo for being a law abiding citizen in the area of the Chicago Police Department and testified that his reputation was bad. He testified that he based his opinion upon police files and records, conversations with police officers, from newspaper items and commentators on radio and television, and from the fact that Accardo had declined to answer 172 questions at a Senate committee hearing on the ground that his answers might incriminate him. He testified over objection, that the plaintiff's trip to Europe with Accardo brought disgrace, humiliation and disrespect to the Chicago Police Department and the city of Chicago. He based this opinion on news items concerning the trip, comments by radio and television commentators, telephone calls received by him and letters and protests by civic bodies.

The chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission testified that he knew Accardo's reputation of being an underworld leader. He derived this knowledge from police files, correspondence from all over the country, newspaper accounts and other sources of information available to the Crime Commission. He also testified that the plaintiff's trip with Accardo had an adverse effect on the relation between the Chicago Police Department and the citizens of the community and had brought ridicule upon the Police Department. He testified that since the trip hundreds of citizens had talked to him about it.

A police sergeant and a police captain each testified that, based upon what they had read and heard from others, Accardo's reputation was bad. Another police captain testified that from 1952 to 1955 he was a special investigator in a police unit whose principal duties were to try to keep track of the known criminal element around Chicago. He testified that in his opinion Accardo's reputation was bad and testified that he regularly saw Accardo meeting with known criminals and hoodlums at a certain bar and restaurant. He also saw notorious criminals at parties at Accardo's home. Accounts of these parties were published in Chicago newspapers.

The chief investigator for the Attorney General testified that Accardo's reputation was bad and that the plaintiff's trip had hurt the reputation of the police department.

An exhibit was admitted in evidence consisting of a transcript of Accardo's testimony before a Senate committee, in which he declined to answer many questions as to his business, his income, his associates, and his connection with certain ...

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