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Jones v. Police Board

June 30, 1998

LONNIE JONES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE POLICE BOARD OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, AND TERRY G. HILLARD, SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cousins

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT COOK COUNTY.

No. 94 CH 1254

THE HONORABLE ARTHUR DUNNE JUDGE PRESIDING.

Plaintiff, Lonnie Jones, appeals from a decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Police Board (Board) of the City of Chicago and Terry G. Hillard, superintendent of police of the City of Chicago (City), to terminate his employment as a police officer with the City's police force. On appeal, Jones contends that: (1) the decision of the Board was against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) his conduct did not warrant discharge; (3) he was prejudiced by an improper grant of a continuance to the City; (4) the improper handling of reluctant witnesses was contrary to law and prejudiced him; and (5) he did not receive a fair and impartial hearing before the Board.

BACKGROUND

On January 12, 1994, Jones was discharged from his employment with the City of Chicago's police department after the Board found that he violated 10 police department rules during an incident that occurred on June 19, 1992. At the hearing on the charges Jones testified as follows. In the early morning hours of June 19, 1992, Jones was off duty and wearing civilian clothes. He had spent an hour and a half in Dell's lounge at 815 East 79th Street. While at the lounge,Jones became hungry so the owner of the lounge phoned in a food order for Jones at a nearby Harold's Chicken Shack (Harold's). About 10 minutes later, Jones left Dell's and went to Harold's. Jones testified that he approached the counter. Two men were standing behind the counter. When he asked the men about his order, the men swore at him and told him to sit down because they were talking. Jones sat down in the restaurant and waited for 5 or 10 minutes. Jones testified that when he approached the window a second time, Maurice Fleshman said, "Don't you see me talking. Get the fuck away from the window. He will get your fucking chicken when it's ready." Jones testified that Fleshman then made a fist and pushed him. The push caused Jones to back into a wall. Jones asked Fleshman why he had pushed him, pulled out his badge and announced that he was a police officer. At that point, another man standing by the counter, Derrick Ford, came over to Jones and threatened him. The three men then began to fight. Jones testified that the two men were on either side of him and that they were feeling around his back. He believed they were looking for his weapon. Jones attempted to push the men away from him and Ford was pushed up against a table. Fleshman fell near the door. Jones further testified that Fleshman moved his right hand into his jacket as though he had a weapon so Jones pulled out his weapon, pointed it toward the ground and asked Fleshman to show him his hand. Fleshman then backed out of the restaurant. Jones went over to Ford, grabbed him and took him outside, where he told him that he was under arrest.

Once outside, Jones observed Fleshman outside the door by a public telephone. He told both Ford and Fleshman to line up on the wall and put their hands on the wall. Jones then flagged down a passing squad car. Two uniformed police officers, Officer Daria Peterson and Officer Andrea Dawson, arrived on the scene. The officers yelled at Jones to drop his gun. Jones told the officers that he was a police officer and showed them his badge. Jones testified that he did not drop the gun because he feared it would go off and hit a citizen. Eventually he placed the gun in his waistband and tried to tell the officers that he was arresting the two men for battery. Sergeant Charles Flynn arrived on the scene and ordered Jones to get into the squad car with Officers Peterson and Dawson. Jones testified that he did not obey the sergeant's order. Jones was subsequently taken to the station and arrested for battery and aggravated assault. Several weeks later, Jones reported the incident in writing.

Derrick Ford also testified at the hearing. On June 19, 1992, Ford was at Harold's with Craig Jackson and Maurice Fleshman. The three men were sitting at a booth in the restaurant and were eating. Ford testified that he heard someone come into the restaurant and then heard people arguing. Jackson kicked Ford under the table and told him to turn around. When Ford turned around and looked, he saw Jones. Jones was "nudging" Fleshman by pushing him with his shoulders. Ford started to get out of the booth and said, "hey." Ford testified that, at that point, Jones grabbed him by the throat and slammed him onto the table. Ford stated that he knew that his hands were on the table when Jones came over to him because he was holding a piece of chicken. With one hand around Ford's neck, Jones pulled out his pistol and held it about four inches away from Ford's face. Then Jones pulled out his badge and told Ford that he was a police officer. Two other men in the restaurant asked Jones what he was doing. When Jones turned around to tell them that he was a police officer, he moved his gun away from Ford. Ford then got off the table and walked out of the restaurant.

Outside the restaurant, Ford saw Maurice Fleshman at a telephone booth. Two female police officers arrived on the scene. Jones came out of the restaurant. He still had the gun in his hand and was pointing it at the ground. The female officers identified themselves and told Jones to put down his gun, but Jones pointed at Ford and Fleshman and told the officers to arrest them. Ford and Fleshman were taken to the police station but they were not charged with anything and were soon released. On cross-examination, Ford admitted that he had been drinking that night.

Maurice Fleshman also testified at the hearing. Fleshman testified that he was standing in line when Jones entered Harold's. Jones came up to the front of the line and stood next to Fleshman. Jones was talking to the people who were working behind the counter about his order. Jones then bumped into Fleshman and told him, "Don't touch me." Fleshman moved away from Jones. Jones then pulled out his gun and pointed it at Fleshman. Fleshman put his hands up and backed out of the restaurant. Fleshman testified that, at this point, Ford stood up with a piece of chicken in his hand. Jones grabbed Ford and threw him onto the table. Fleshman then went outside to the pay phone and called 911. Then Officers Peterson and Dawson arrived.

Albert Parks, a cook who was working at Harold's on the night of the incident, also testified at the hearing. Parks testified that he did not see what happened after he told Jones that his chicken was not ready. Parks testified that he only saw when Jones had Ford on the table and had his gun pointed on him.

Earlean Scott testified that she was a cashier at Harold's and was working on the night of the incident. She also testified that she saw Jones standing over a man who was lying on a table on his back. Jones had one hand on the man on the table and another hand on his gun, which he held up in the air.

Officer Daria Peterson testified at the hearing. Officer Peterson stated that, as she arrived at the scene at Harold's, she saw a crowd gathering outside the restaurant by the telephone. Officer Peterson testified that, as they pulled up to the scene, Jones reached into his waistband and pulled out a gun. The officers yelled at Jones to drop his gun. Jones told the officers that he wanted the two men who were standing by the telephone arrested. The officers kept telling Jones to drop his gun but he did not. Finally, Jones placed the gun in his other hand and told the officers that he was a police officer. Then Jones showed Officer Peterson his badge, but did not show her his identification card. Officer Peterson further testified that Jones was "hollering" and was "very loud, physically upset [and] agitated." Jones kept telling the officers that he wanted Ford and Fleshman arrested. Officer Peterson then left Jones and walked over to Ford and Fleshman, who were standing near the telephone. Ford and Fleshman were yelling that they wanted Jones arrested.

A crowd started to gather so the officers decided to go to the sixth district police station. Officer Peterson told Jones that they were going to the police station in order to take the incident off the street. Jones became angrier and stated that he wanted to sign complaints there. Then Sergeant Charles Flynn arrived on the scene. Sergeant Flynn spoke with Officers Peterson and Dawson and then spoke with Jones. Sergeant Flynn also testified at the hearing and stated that he could smell alcohol on Jones' breath. After speaking with Ford, Fleshman and Jones, Sergeant Flynn decided to take everyone to the police station. When Jones learned that he was going to the station, he began to call the officers names and curse at them. He also told them that they did not know their jobs. At times, Officer Peterson testified, Jones was "in [her] face." Officer Peterson also testified that she could smell alcohol on Jones' breath. Sergeant Flynn told Jones that Officers Peterson and Dawson would take him to the police station in their squad car. Jones responded that he wanted to drive himself to the station and crossed the street to his car. Sergeant Flynn followed Jones across the street and gave him a direct order to ride to the station in a squad car. Jones refused to get into a squad car and told the sergeant that he was making a mistake and would regret it. Jones also said that he had an uncle who was a deputy and that Sergeant Flynn could be in trouble. At that point, Sergeant Flynn arrested Jones and took him to the police station. At the station, Jones told Officer Peterson that she would get hers or something to that effect. He also told her "something pertaining to keeping the punk police" in the sixth district where officers "don't know how to treat police."

The Board found Jones guilty of violating 10 of the Chicago police department's rules and regulations in connection with the June 19, 1992, incident. Specifically, the Board found that Jones violated Rule 1, which prohibits a police officer from "violating any law or ordinance"; and Rule 2, which prohibits an officer from taking any action or engaging in conduct that "impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department." The Board also found Jones violated Rule 2 by disobeying oral orders given by Sergeant Flynn and Officers Peterson and Dawson and by verbally abusing Officers Peterson and Dawson. Jones was also found guilty of violating Rule 6, which prohibits an officer from disobeying an order or directive, whether written or oral, because, without justification, he threatened to use deadly force against Ford and used non-deadly force against Fleshman in violation of police department general orders. Furthermore, the Board found Jones guilty of violating Rule 7, which prohibits an officer from committing an act of insubordination or disrespect toward a supervisory officer, on or off duty, by refusing to comply with Sergeant Flynn's orders and by using improper language in Sergeant Flynn's presence. The Board also found Jones guilty of violating Rule 8, which prohibits an officer from disrespecting or maltreating any person, while on or off duty, and Rule 9, which prohibits an officer from engaging in any unjustified verbal or physical altercation with any person, while on or off duty, by battering Ford and Fleshman, putting his gun to Ford's head, pointing his gun at Fleshman and disobeying and verbally abusing Sergeant Flynn and Officers Peterson and Dawson. With respect to Rule 14, which prohibits an officer from making a false report, whether written or oral, the Board found Jones guilty because he provided a statement concerning the June 19, 1992, incident that was not true. The Board also found Jones guilty of violating Rule 15, which prohibits a police officer from becoming intoxicated on or off duty, because he was intoxicated during the June 19, 1992, incident. The Board further found Jones guilty of violating Rule 37, which prohibits a police officer, whether on or off duty, from not correctly identifying himself, because he failed to identify himself to Officers Peterson and Dawson. Finally, with respect to Rule 38, which prohibits any unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon, the Board found Jones guilty because he unnecessarily placed a gun to Ford's head, pointed it at Fleshman and displayed it in the presence of Officers Dawson and Peterson. On January 12, 1994, the Board ordered that Jones be discharged as a police officer. The Board acknowledged that Jones had presented evidence that he went through alcohol rehabilitation, but rejected his request to mitigate the punishment in the event that he was found guilty of the charges. On February 8, 1994, Jones filed a petition for administrative review in the circuit court, challenging the Board's decision. On December 21, 1994, the circuit court entered an order affirming the findings of the Board but reversing the sanction of discharge and remanding the matter to the Board for imposition of a sanction less than discharge if Jones successfully completed a program of alcoholic treatment and a psychological evaluation.

At a hearing on May 19, 1995, Jones' sponsor at Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) testified on behalf of Jones and stated that Jones had been consistently sober since 1993. Jones also testified that he had been sober and had been attending AA meetings. On July 6, 1995, the Board issued an order providing that Jones would have until September 30, 1995, to comply with the circuit court's order of December 21, 1994, by presenting documentation of ...


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