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Ceja v. State Police Merit Board

MAY 16, 1973.

RAUL N. CEJA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

STATE POLICE MERIT BOARD ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff appeals from order of the circuit court of Cook County upholding the decision of the State Police Merit Board which had ordered plaintiff's dismissal. He has appealed to this court, alleging the following points:

A. The State Police Merit Board proceedings in the instant case must be regarded as criminal for purposes of application of Federal constitutional guarantees.

B. Illinois Revised Statutes 1967, chapter 121, section 307.14, required that the charges against the plaintiff be established by only a preponderance of evidence before an order of removal could be entered against him. However, the State Police Merit Board proceedings held in the instant case are "criminal proceedings" and the plaintiff's guilt had to be established beyond a reasonable doubt as failure to do so deprived the plaintiff of the equal protection of the laws to which he was entitled under the fourteenth amendment to the Federal constitution.

C. The decision of the State Police Merit Board was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

D. The decision of the State Police Merit Board was based on findings made by the board that were inconsistent and contradictory in such degree that they were not valid to support the Board's decision.

E. The plaintiff could not be suspended until after a proper hearing was held, and such is the clear meaning of Illinois Revised Statutes 1967, chapter 121, section 307.14.

F. The plaintiff was entitled to a speedy and public trial by a jury pursuant to the sixth amendment to the Federal constitution and article 2, § 9 of the Illinois constitution.

At about 12:50 A.M., on April 24, 1968, plaintiff observed James Smith on the highway with no red tail light. After checking with Smith, plaintiff discovered that the latter had no driver's license on his person. He permitted Smith to drive his car to Smith's home and went in with him. Smith was told that he would need $100 to post bond. Smith obtained the $100 from his wife and left home in the company of the plaintiff for the purpose of going to the police station to post bond. No bond was ever posted, no arrest record was made for Smith, and plaintiff gave Smith a warning notice for failure to have a proper tail light. Smith testified that he gave the $100 to plaintiff which the latter denied. State police officers are required to fill out daily activity reports which include the number of arrests made and the number of warnings issued. Trooper Ceja's activity report contains no record concerning Smith and a copy of the warning ticket was not turned into headquarters in accordance with rules. On June 18, 1968, plaintiff was suspended from duty by his superiors and a complaint was filed with the State Police Merit Board changing various violations of Illinois Revised Statutes 1967, chapter 121, section 307.16. The Board, at a hearing, made the following findings:

"1. * * * [W]e conclude that the respondent did not actually know that Smith had no driver's license until such time as he arrived at the Smith home; that at that time respondent had a duty to issue Smith a traffic ticket, charging him with failure to possess a driver's license, arrest him and take him to the nearest station for posting bond; that the respondent did arrest Smith but failed to issue a traffic ticket or take him to the station to post bond, and in so doing violated his oath and pledge of office in failing to follow the commands of his superiors and in failure to enforce the laws of the State of Illinois. He also violated rule 160.100 of the State Police Rules and Regulations in failing to perform his duty as a Trooper to enforce all traffic laws. Further, he failed to perform the duties imposed upon him by Chapter 121, Section 307.16, Illinois Revised Statutes of 1967, providing that he is to enforce the provisions of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Law and an Act in Relation to the Regulation of Traffic, all as charged in paragraph number 9 of the Complaint.

2. That since his first actual knowledge that Smith had no driver's license was acquired at the Smith residence, he is not guilty of condoning, permitting, encouraging and directing a motorist known to be unlicensed to operate a motor vehicle on the highways of this State as charged in paragraph number 10 of the Complaint.

3. That respondent made an actual arrest of Smith when he took him from his home and started toward the Homewood Sheriff's Police Station without ever making any report to his commanding officer or district headquarters. He is, therefore, guilty of failing to submit as soon as possible, a full and complete report regarding the apprehension of, arrest of and other complete information regarding a traffic violator as required by the rules and regulations, Section 160.740, requiring Troopers to submit reports, and Section 62.410 and .411 which requires an officer making a physical arrest to immediately call his district headquarters, giving pertinent information on the case, all as charged in paragraph number 7 of the Complaint.

4. That the respondent is guilty of violating the rules and regulations of the Illinois State Police, exhibit 15, Section 1798.500, in failing to forward to his commanding officer a copy of the warning ticket issued to Smith for failure to have a red light, as charged in paragraph number 8 of the Complaint.

5. * * * When we consider all of these facts in addition to the fact that respondent released Smith after he had taken him into custody and arrested him we feel that this conduct militates against the story as told by respondent and tends to verify the story as told by Smith, and that the evidence preponderates in favor of Smith's story. We, therefore, conclude that the respondent as charged, accepted money for the release of a person apprehended for violation of the law; withheld evidence or information pertaining thereto; took said money, knowing that the giver expected respondent to render him special treatment, all in violation of his oath and pledge of office pledging that his every act will exemplify honesty in thought, word and deed, and in disregard to the obedience of the command of his superiors; Section 62.639 of the Rules and Regulations providing that no officer may accept something of value for the release of any person apprehended for any law violation or the withholding of any evidence or information pertaining to any illegal activity, and Section 599.000, rule 2 of State Police Rules and Regulations, providing that members of the State Police will not accept ...


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