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12/30/88 Lawrence Wall, v. Police Pension Board of

December 30, 1988





533 N.E.2d 458, 178 Ill. App. 3d 438, 127 Ill. Dec. 586 1988.IL.1934

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert L. Sklodowski, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE QUINLAN delivered the opinion of the court. MANNING and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.


Plaintiff, Lawrence Wall, appealed to this court from an order of the circuit court of Cook County. The circuit court had affirmed an administrative determination of the Police Pension Board of the Village of Schaumburg which denied plaintiff a job-related disability pension.

Plaintiff became a police officer with the Schaumburg police department on September 24, 1977. After nine years with the department, he applied to the Police Pension Board of the Village of Schaumburg (the Board) for a duty-related disability pension. In his application, plaintiff claimed he suffered from duty-related stress reactions.

The Board then conducted hearings pursuant to article 3 of the Illinois Pension Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 108 1/2, par. 3-101 et seq.). Plaintiff testified on his own behalf at the hearings. He told the Board that in the past few years as a police officer, he no longer had fun on the job and was unable to relax or enjoy himself. Plaintiff said that stress kept building, until as a result of the stress, he was finally suspended from the police force. Plaintiff did not think he would ever be able to wear a police uniform again because he did not feel he could handle the job anymore. He no longer wanted to accept the responsibility for other people's lives or face the constant pressure from the public because "nobody appreciates a cop."

Plaintiff told the Board that he was promoted from patrol officer to detective on May 20, 1982. Plaintiff's attorney claimed that it was at this time that plaintiff began to feel a pressure to perform. Plaintiff testified that in December 1983, he got into a fight with another detective, which ended when he punched the detective. Plaintiff said that this behavior was totally out of character for him. After this fight, plaintiff was transferred back to patrol officer, but there was no evidence that the transfer was related to the fight.

Plaintiff also testified that in September 1985, he returned a juvenile to her home because she was violating curfew, an act which he felt was positive and would be appreciated by the juvenile's family. When the juvenile's family reacted negatively to plaintiff, he felt he could not handle being a police officer any longer and walked off the job even though two hours remained on his shift. As he was walking out, one of his superiors stopped him and asked him what was going on. Plaintiff replied, "I can't handle it any more; this is bullshit; I'm trying to do my job, and now this lady is going to come in and beef; now I've got to go through an internal investigation; I can't handle it any more." His superior talked with him for several hours and persuaded him not to quit.

In February 1986, plaintiff experienced severe chest pains while on duty and went to Northwest Community Hospital. He was admitted to the hospital and there remained for five days. His doctor diagnosed plaintiff as having mild pleurisy, but found nothing else wrong with him. Plaintiff claimed that these chest pains were the result of job stress. When he was released from the hospital, plaintiff returned to work.

Then, on June 12, 1986, plaintiff told his watch commander, Lt. Johnson, that he was experiencing severe emotional strain and could not continue to work. Lt. Johnson immediately placed plaintiff on emergency suspension. Plaintiff never resumed working as a police officer following this incident. In September 1986, plaintiff filed this claim for a job-related disability pension.

Plaintiff also presented various documents to support his claim of disability. The documents included some service evaluation ratings that his superiors had filled out on him which covered the years 1978 through 1986, excluding only 1983. Of the evaluations submitted, the first evaluation that contained an unfavorable remark concerning plaintiff's job performance was from 1984. While the evaluations from 1985 and 1986 also contained unfavorable remarks, even in those evaluations the favorable comments outnumbered the unfavorable comments.

Along with the evaluation service ratings, plaintiff submitted letters from various doctors. Dr. Frederick Reis and Dr. John Mitchell wrote a joint letter that said they had seen plaintiff on three occasions. The doctors stated that "[probably] the most stressful event [for plaintiff] was his separation from his wife about 1 1/2 years ago." The doctors felt that plaintiff may have been suffering from a major depression. They declined to speculate ...

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