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Robinson v. Cook Cty. Police Merit Bd.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied June 17, 1982.

The sheriff of Cook County filed a complaint with the Cook County Police and Corrections Merit Board (Board) against plaintiff, Robert Robinson (Robinson), a deputy sheriff in the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department. The complaint sought discharge of Robinson for alleged violations of certain rules and regulations of the Board. After an administrative hearing, the Board entered a finding that Robinson was guilty of the violations charged and ordered him discharged. Robinson appealed the Board's order to the circuit court pursuant to section 13 of the Administrative Review Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 276.) On review the circuit court affirmed the Board's finding as to Robinson's misconduct but remanded the matter for reconsideration of the discharge sanction "in light of [the circuit] court's opinion that said sanction is unduly harsh." On remand the Board affirmed its discharge order. The circuit court then affirmed the Board's order including the sanction of discharge, and plaintiff appeals from that determination raising the following issues for our review: (1) whether the Board's order is invalid because it fails to include any findings of fact; (2) whether the Board's findings were against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (3) whether the Board's findings constitute sufficient cause to warrant discharge.

For the reasons hereinafter stated, we affirm.

The testimony on the substantive issues before the Board was provided by Janet Frohlich (Frohlich), the complaining witness, and Robinson. Robinson also presented testimony of two reputation witnesses.

At the hearing on November 14, 1978, Frohlich, a waitress in a bar and lounge in Oak Forest, Illinois, testified to the following: that at approximately 4 a.m. on June 26, 1978, Frohlich was driving home from work when Robinson stopped her because the vehicle she was driving had a burned-out headlight. As Robinson approached her vehicle, Frohlich told him that she knew about the headlight because another police officer had just warned her about it. When Robinson asked to see her driver's license, Frohlich told him that she had lost it. Robinson then informed Frohlich that he would have to take her to the Glenwood police station. Frohlich protested because she preferred going to the Tinley Park station which was closer to the point of the traffic stop, but Robinson insisted on going to Glenwood because he "worked out" of that station. When Frohlich asked if she could park her vehicle in a safe place, Robinson suggested that she park it at her apartment. Frohlich agreed to this suggestion, but as she was driving her car toward her apartment, she changed her mind and decided to park in a parking lot adjacent to a 7-Eleven store located approximately one-half block from the point of the stop. Robinson followed Frohlich in his squad car and parked behind her. Their vehicles were parked in front of the store, and the cashier was visible through the store window. The "Mars" lights, headlights and interior lights of the squad car were left on.

Frohlich got into the back seat of the police car while Robinson sat behind the steering wheel. She testified that in response to his questions she gave him her name and address and she told him that she was separated from her husband. He told her that he would have to give her citations for driving without a license, for driving with only one headlight and for failing to report a change of address. Robinson then asked her whether she had any children. When she told him she had two, Robinson said he was going to give her a "pass" but that in return for the "pass" she owed him a "big favor." Robinson repeated his statement and added, "Do you know what I mean by a big favor?" She responded, "I know what you mean." Robinson then handed her a slip of paper bearing his name and home telephone number and told her to call him by noon the next day or she would be in "big trouble." She said she would try to call.

Robinson let Frohlich out of the back seat of the squad car and she noted the car's license number. She drove home and reported the incident to the police. She testified that she was intimidated and frightened by Robinson and that she thought he intended to elicit sexual favors from her in exchange for giving her a "pass."

Robinson's testimony substantially corroborated Frohlich's version of the details of their encounter. He denied, however, that he initiated the discussion concerning Frohlich's marital status and children. He testified that Frohlich volunteered this information in an apparent attempt to evoke his sympathy and to avoid being issued the citations. After learning of Frohlich's family, Robinson felt sorry for her and decided to give her a "pass." He conceded that he told Frohlich that she owed him a "big favor" in exchange for the "pass," but he testified that the "big favor" he expected of Frohlich was that she would become an informant for him. He believed Frohlich would be a useful informant because she worked late hours in a bar and he thought she would be able to collect information from the bar's clientele. Robinson admitted that he had never been in this particular bar and that he did not know any of its customers.

On cross-examination Robinson acknowledged that he violated department procedures regarding the recruitment of informants by failing to inform his watch commander of his efforts. He also admitted that he failed to radio Frohlich's license number to headquarters even though it was standard operating procedure to do so.

Cook County Sheriff's Police Sergeants Hillburn Turner and Laurence Evans, two of Robinson's supervisors, testified as character witnesses for Robinson. Both stated that Robinson had been a deputy sheriff with the Cook County Sheriff's Department for two years and that he had a good reputation for truthfulness and was known as a good police officer. Evans stated further that in his opinion Robinson's conduct was "inappropriate" but admitted that at times he also had not called in license numbers, had given his home phone number to informants and had neglected departmental procedures regarding informants. Both character witnesses testified that Robinson had been suspended previously for a violation of departmental rules. Although the record is unclear regarding some details of Robinson's prior misconduct, it appears that on February 28, 1978, only five months earlier, Robinson caused a traffic accident while driving a marked police car under the influence of intoxicating liquors. For this violation Robinson received a 29-day suspension.

After hearing all of the testimony, the Board found that Robinson had violated the following rules and regulations of the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department:

"Chapter 14:

14.4 All officers shall employ every lawful means at their disposal in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of any person observed or known to be violating or have violated any statute or ordinance pertaining ...

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