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Campbell v. Towse

October 29, 1996









Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, East St. Louis Division.

No. 94 C 429 Paul E. Riley, Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and ROVNER and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

ROVNER, Circuit Judge.



Gregory Campbell, a lieutenant with the City of Alton Police Department (Department) in Alton, Illinois, was suspended with pay for nine days after he wrote a letter to Chief of Police Sylvester Jones asking to be relieved of his position as Commander of the Bureau of Field Services and to be reassigned to another position. In the letter, Campbell stated that he disagreed with the "management style" and "law enforcement philosophy" of the Department as administered by Jones, that he had grave doubts about the wisdom of Jones' decision to institute a community-oriented policing program known by the acronym "C.O.P.S.," *fn1 and that he objected to the way the C.O.P.S. program was being carried out because he believed that the needs of the nonminority residents of Alton were being slighted. Following the suspension, Campbell filed suit in state court under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, alleging that the defendants had retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to express his views on a matter of public concern. Campbell sought compensatory and punitive damages from Jones and the Mayor of Alton, R. W. Towse, for the violation of his rights. Campbell also asserted several state law claims that are not at issue here. The defendants removed the case to federal district court and filed various dispositive motions. The district court ultimately entered judgment for the defendants on all of Campbell's claims. In this appeal, Campbell challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on his First Amendment claim; Jones and the City of Alton in turn contest the court's decision to assess attorneys' fees against them for missing the deadline for filing dispositive motions. For the reasons that follow, we affirm summary judgment with respect to Campbell's claim, and reverse the award of attorneys' fees to Campbell's counsel.


At the time that he was suspended with pay, Campbell had been a police officer with the Department for nearly fifteen years, having been promoted to the rank of sergeant in June 1986 and lieutenant in June 1989. Shortly after Jones became Chief of Police in May 1993, he chose Campbell to be Commander of the Bureau of Field Services. In that position, Campbell's primary responsibility was to coordinate the activities of the Traffic Division and the Patrol Division so as to ensure that a sufficient number of police officers were assigned to serve the needs of each area. Immediately before being selected bureau commander, Campbell had been a watch commander, and thus had been responsible for coordinating the duties of a significantly smaller number of police officers. Although Campbell and Jones had little personal contact on a day-to-day basis, Campbell was expected to be present at meetings of Jones' command staff and to play a role in advising Jones on various issues of departmental policy.

Shortly after his appointment as Chief of Police, Jones instituted the C.O.P.S. program, which provided extra police patrols to the two or three areas of Alton with the highest rates of serious crime. Implementation of the C.O.P.S. program thus entailed diverting police officers from other areas of Alton to the areas targeted for the most vigorous patrolling. It was Campbell's understanding that a significant number of officers assigned to work under his command in the Patrol Division would be transferred to the C.O.P.S. program. During the summer of 1993, Campbell had several discussions with Jones regarding the shortage of police officers assigned to the Patrol Division, and he expressed his concern that the number of officers in that division had fallen to dangerously low levels. Although at that time Campbell had not yet indicated to Jones that he was opposed in principle to the C.O.P.S. program, he did express his dissatisfaction with Jones' decision to adopt the program to other officers, some of whom conveyed the information to Jones. In the early fall of 1993, Jones asked Campbell to prepare a grant application to obtain funds for the purpose of hiring new police officers to be assigned to the C.O.P.S. program. After approximately four to six weeks, Jones asked Campbell where things stood with the application, and Campbell informed him that he had not completed it. Jones later completed the application himself.

On October 25, 1993, shortly after informing Jones that he had not completed the grant application, Campbell delivered the following memorandum (dated October 22, 1993) to Jones:

I respectfully request to be relieved of my current assignment as Commander of the Bureau of Field Services, and reassigned to a Watch Commander's position in the Patrol Division.

Also, it has become increasingly evident to me that we have a big conflict with regard to management style and law enforcement philosophy. Perhaps COP is the wave of the future; but I remain unconvinced that a Police Department of our size can implement the wide program changes that you envision. So far there is no indication that your program for the future is targeted for any segment of the community outside minorities. There are a lot of other people out there with problems also, and I think they are going to be ignored under this administration.

I would think it to be in your best interest, to have a person in my current position who understands, agrees with, and enthusiastically supports what you are attempting for this ...

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