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Coursey v. Board Fire & Police Com'rs of Skokie

NOVEMBER 30, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD R. FINNEGAN, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


William Coursey, a policeman of the Village of Skokie, was charged with several violations of its police department's rules. After a hearing before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners he was discharged from service. He filed suit for administrative review. The trial court affirmed the board's decision and he has appealed.

The charges against Coursey were based upon his conduct in regard to certain juvenile violators of the village's curfew ordinance, his failure to report the incident fully and his refusal, during the subsequent investigation, to take a polygraph examination. It is his position that the findings of the board were arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

On the night of April 25th and the early morning of April 26th, 1964, Coursey was on duty and assigned a specific beat to patrol in his squad car. Shortly after midnight, while making his rounds, he stopped at a bowling alley to check for violations of the curfew. The manager of the alley told him that a young boy was alone in a car in the parking lot. Coursey went to the car to question him. The boy, 13 years old, told him he was waiting in the family car for his sister and her girl friend. Coursey took the boy inside the bowling alley while he looked for other violators of the curfew. About half an hour after midnight an automobile with two teenage couples in it entered the parking lot. The boy said he thought the auto was the one his sister was in and that she had been "out whoring around." He also used other vulgarisms. Coursey asked if one of the occupants of the auto was the boy's sister and Cathy, 17 years old, said that she was. She told Coursey that her brother had been left behind because he had been causing trouble and using foul language. Coursey told them they were in violation of the curfew, asked if they had identification cards and wrote down their names, addresses, ages and telephone numbers. He reprimanded them and told the boys to go home. He offered to take the other girl, Helen, home and said he would explain to her parents why she was late coming in. Helen said she had come with Cathy and would leave with her. Coursey then said he would follow to make sure she arrived without hindrance. He escorted the car to Helen's home in Morton Grove without having requested permission to leave Skokie. At Helen's home he again said that he wanted to speak with her parents but she told him that her parents were in bed. He then told her to tell Cathy to meet him at the parking lot of the Niles Township High School so that he could talk to her about the language her brother was using.

The evidence as to what transpired at the high school parking lot is conflicting. Coursey's testimony before the board follows: Cathy and her brother met him at the parking lot. He called the boy over to the squad car and asked him about the vulgar words he was using. After talking about five minutes, he told the boy to tell Cathy to come over to the car. He questioned her about the boy's language and suggested that she tell her mother about it. He talked to her for five to seven minutes and then, about 1:45 a.m., she and her brother drove away. He followed their car for a short distance and continued his patrol when they turned off.

Cathy and her brother related a very different version of what took place. The boy testified that Coursey called him into the squad car, asked him why he called the girls the names he did and if he knew the meaning of the words. He was then told to send his sister over to the squad car. Cathy stated that her brother came to their car and said Coursey wanted to talk to her. She entered the squad car and Coursey asked where her brother learned that language. He asked how broadminded she was and if she "ever had it." He asked her to conduct an experiment to help her brother: to expose herself to him, to let him touch her and to keep a record of their reactions. Shortly before the conversation ended, Cathy asked what time it was and was told it was 2:00 a.m. When she returned to her car, she drove away and Coursey followed. Several blocks later he signaled for her to stop; she did so and then entered the patrol car. He told her to start the experiment immediately, to unfasten her bra and let her brother touch her; he said, "Well, let me help you undo your bra." She refused, went back to her car and sped away. Coursey followed for a short time and then turned back.

When Coursey finished his eight-hour shift at 7:00 a.m., he returned to the station house and filed an "activity report." The report did not show that he had detained and questioned violators of the curfew or that he had left his beat or the village.

The following day, after completing his tour of duty, Coursey told his supervisor he was worried about an incident which happened the night before; that he had ejected some teenagers from the parking lot of a bowling alley and one girl said she would make trouble for him. Coursey said that was all that happened and that the manager of the alley was there at the time. He was told not to worry. He did not disclose that he had left his beat and that he had stopped the teenagers again in the high school parking lot.

Cathy, her brother and their mother made a complaint to the state's attorney and a police investigation began. Coursey was questioned by the state's attorney and a police detective and, according to the latter, did not attempt to withhold information from them. Shortly thereafter the chief of police sent Coursey a written order to submit to a polygraph examination. Coursey did not appear for the test. Soon afterward the following charges were placed against him:

(1) failure to obey the order directing him to take the polygraph examination;

(2) insubordination in failing to comply with the order;

(3) professional misconduct on the evening of April 25th tending to bring the police department into disrepute;

(4) leaving his assigned beat and duty without being relieved, and

(5) failing to properly complete his activity report for his period of duty from 11:00 p.m. on April ...

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