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Begg v. Board of Fire & Police Comm'rs





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.


In this case the appellant, Richard R. Begg, a police officer with the city of Park Ridge, was suspended without pay for three days for allegedly failing to meet certain job performance requirements or standards relating to his traffic and nontraffic activities as a police officer. The city's director of public safety ordered the suspension, and that order was affirmed by the Fire and Police Commission after an evidentiary hearing. The appellant then filed an administrative review action in the circuit court of Cook County. The circuit court reversed the commission because it found that appellant was suspended based on a traffic quota system which it held was against public policy. The appellate court, one justice specially concurring, reversed. (110 Ill. App.3d 941.) The majority of the appellate court held that there was no evidence to suggest that the appellant was being asked to meet standards which were unreasonably high, nor was there any testimony that the appellant or other officers were to issue unjustified citations to meet the standards required of them. (110 Ill. App.3d 941, 946.) The appellate court further held that the standards provided a means of evaluating officers in terms of minimal performance as well as identifying superior performance and that appellant had failed to demonstrate that even great reliance on such objective standards would be unreasonable. The court held: "Clearly plaintiff [appellant] has failed to meet his burden of establishing that the challenged regulations were arbitrary or unreasonable." 110 Ill. App.3d 941, 946.

One justice, in what is labeled a special concurrence, believed that "the case should be remanded to the circuit court for a determination of whether there [was a] sufficient basis for suspension of [appellant] without regard to [appellant's] failure to satisfy the requirements of the traffic ticket quota system." 110 Ill. App.3d 941, 947 (Johnson, P.J., specially concurring).

The appellant filed a petition for leave to appeal in this court, and we granted his petition under our Rule 315 (87 Ill.2d R. 315). We also granted leave to Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc., the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., to file a joint brief amicus curiae in support of the city of Park Ridge and to the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, who filed a brief amicus curiae on behalf of appellant.

At the evidentiary hearing before the Fire and Police Commission the following evidence was adduced: Captain John Baudek, commander of the field operations bureau of the city's police department, issued an order on December 19, 1977, setting certain traffic enforcement standards for patrol officers. The order provided in pertinent part:

"In Park Ridge in 1976, there were over twenty-one hundred motor vehicle accidents and it appears that the number in 1977 will reach or exceed that number.

. . . a commitment to reducing motor vehicle accidents and the injuries, deaths, and sorrow that accompany them should be a major objective of both the department's administration and officers.

I believe that the standard detailed below is reasonable considering the numerous other tasks that a patrol officer in Park Ridge must perform. The standard gives both the patrol officer and his supervisors one quantifiable reference point for performance and productivity. It should be pointed out that the standard given is below the standard presently performed by many officers.

While a deviation below the standard does not automatically mean the officer is below an acceptable level of performance, I would expect his supervisor to be able to explain such a deviation if the officer is given an acceptable rating in that area of performance on his evaluation. The standard for traffic enforcement will be as follows:

With the number of miles that a patrol officer drives during a watch and the high volume of traffic in the Park Ridge area, I believe that it is reasonable for an officer to observe one traffic violation during a watch. Keeping in mind the midnight watch and other consideration[s], a patrol officer will be expected to issue .80 "X" citations per day of patrol over a standard three-month watch cycle."

Baudek testified at the evidentiary hearing before the Fire and Police Commission. He stated that his purpose in issuing the above order was to decrease the number of traffic accidents in Park Ridge. He testified that, since he had issued the order, the number of accidents in Park Ridge had not decreased. But he also stated that the traffic count had increased, a fact which might account for the rise in the number of accidents. The standard was also used as a quantifiable and measurable basis upon which to evaluate the police department's officers. Baudek testified that it provided a measurable standard on which to judge an officer's performance rather than depending solely on a subjective personal opinion of a supervisor.

Baudek explained that an officer was evaluated in three ways. The traffic activities that were discussed in the order were one way, nontraffic activities were the second way, and the subjective evaluation by an officer's watch commander was the third way. In the nontraffic activities category, Baudek testified, an officer was expected to perform such tasks as checking doors of the homes of vacationing residents and schools. Even though there was no set standard for nontraffic activities, supervisors were given averages for each department and watch and were expected to use that average as a basis for comparison. Baudek testified that the traffic and nontraffic activities of a police officer were only a small part of the officer's overall evaluation. An officer's watch commander was responsible for completing his or her evaluation form.

Lieutenant George Teune, the appellant's watch commander, was responsible for evaluating the appellant. At the hearing, Teune testified that the evaluation forms included the two objective performance statistics for traffic and nontraffic activities in addition to other areas of evaluation, such as the officer's amount of initiative, promptness, and the amount of sick time he used. Teune testified that the nontraffic and traffic categories, objective categories, represented 40% to 50% of the overall evaluation of the officer. Teune, contrary to what Captain Baudek had testified, stated that, since the standard (which he believed amounted to a quota system) was instituted, the number of accidents in Park Ridge had decreased. He also testified that the standards established a norm from which an officer's superior performance could be judged.

On April 24, 1980, by order, the appellant was warned his performance as a police officer had fallen below an acceptable level. The appellant's sick time record was described as "if not the poorest on the department, very close to that level." His productivity levels were considered to be "in fact the lowest of any officer on the department by almost any standard used." Appellant's traffic index score was listed at .40 for 1979, and for the first quarter of 1980 it was .15, the lowest in the department and well below the departmental average of .829. In nontraffic activities, the appellant's nontraffic index score was listed at .76 for 1979, and .99 for the first quarter of 1980. The departmental averages for that same period were 1.75 and 1.50 respectively. Appellant was told that he had specific objectives to meet for the second quarter of 1980 or he would be subject to discipline. He was to improve his traffic and nontraffic index scores, reduce his use of sick time (barring any serious illness), refrain from doing anything which would cause disciplinary action to be taken against him, and submit to a physical examination to be performed by a departmental physician. Appellant ...

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