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June 21, 1995



The Honorable Justice Rizzi delivered the opinion of the court: Tully and Cerda, J.j., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rizzi

JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Joseph Calomino, was employed as a patrol officer for the Village of Schaumburg, Illinois. After a hearing, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of Schaumburg (Board) found that plaintiff violated various rules and ordered that he be discharged. The trial court affirmed the order and later denied a motion to reconsider. Plaintiff appeals that final judgment. We affirm.

The issues for review by this court are (1) whether the Police Department rules establish a clear standard of conduct; (2) whether plaintiff's actions constitute cause for discharge; (3) whether the Board afforded plaintiff a full and fair hearing; and (4) whether prosecuting plaintiff on the charge that he "failed to competently perform his duties over the last six years" violated the principle of equitable estoppel, due process, or the doctrine of laches.

On July 11, 1990, the Melanowski family was vacationing in Wisconsin. The Rays, who live next door, were watching over the Melanowski residence. Around 10 p.m., Julie Ray, a 24-year-old college student, heard some loud banging. Ray and her mother went outside but did not notice anything unusual. On July 12, 1990, Ray and her mother went to the Melanowski residence to pick up the mail. When they tried to use the key, the lock would not turn, they also noticed footprints on the front door. They went to the back of the residence and found the back door frame shattered, the deadbolt on the floor, and broken glass from the window next to the door. There was a key in the back door, a broken key on the floor, and keys on the counter. Ray's mother called the police and plaintiff was dispatched to take the burglary report.

Upon arrival, plaintiff parked his squad car in front of the Melanowski residence and had a brief conversation with Ray. Ray told him how she had found the door open and her parents were in the house cleaning things up. She also told plaintiff that the owners would be home within two hours. Plaintiff told Ray to have her parents leave the house and not to touch anything else. Ray then agreed to secure the premises and said she would tell the homeowners to contact the police when they arrived.

Plaintiff had the impression there was no forced entry because Ray told him there were keys on the countertop and a key in the door. Plaintiff did not exit his squad car at any time while answering the burglary call. Since plaintiff did not exit his squad car, he did not see the footprints on the front door, or all the damage done to the back door. He concluded, however, that there was a burglary. Plaintiff also concluded that the offenders were no longer at the scene and the neighbors had tampered with the evidence. Plaintiff cleared from the call reporting that the call was "cold" and there was "No victim", indicating that the intruder was gone and the homeowners were not at the scene. He did not fill out a written incident report.

The homeowners called the police when they arrived and Officer Liberio was sent to the Melanowski residence. He exited the squad car and inspected the residence. He went to the back door and saw that the door was damaged, he saw a broken window, a damaged screen door, and a bent metal decoration. Officer Liberio then took a statement from the Rays and the Melanowskis who pointed out footprints, a soda can left by the intruder, and a rock believed to be the one used to smash the window. The officer went into the residence to make sure there was nobody inside, then he requested an evidence technician unit. The technicians processed the crime scene, taking prints, dusting, and photographing. Officer Liberio also did a neighborhood canvass, going door to door, attempting to locate possible witnesses. At the end of his investigation, Officer Liberio filled out a burglary field case report.

The Chief of Police, Kenneth Alley, charged plaintiff with violating rules and regulations of the Schaumburg Police Department. The charges alleged plaintiff failed to fulfill his responsibilities at the scene of a reported criminal incident; failed to properly investigate a complaint; failed to complete a preliminary investigation of a reported criminal incident scene; failed to comply with orders of the Department Operating Procedure; failed to notify the communications center of his proper arrival time at the scene; failed to produce a written incident report of a criminal incident; engaged in conduct which adversely affected the morale and efficiency of the Department, and failed to perform his duties in a competent and acceptable manner in the past 6 years.

After the hearing, the Board found that plaintiff, a 10-year veteran, "blatantly ignored the Standard Operating Procedures of the Schaumburg Police Department" and held that the July 12, 1990, incident constituted sufficient cause for discharge. Specifically the Board found that on July 12, 1990, plaintiff violated the following Schaumburg Police Department rules:

a) Standard Operating Procedure - P. 36 re: Conduct, Preliminary Investigations

b) § - Neglect of Duty

c) § - Duties of Patrol Officer, ...

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