Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Aaron Jaffe, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karnezis
On June 4, 1999, Chicago police officer Serena Daniels fatally shot Latanya Haggerty following a car chase. Chicago Police Department Superintendent Terry Hillard (the superintendent) filed charges with the Police Board of the City of Chicago (the Board) alleging that Daniels and three other police officers, Carl Carter, Michael Williams and Stafford Wilson, violated police department rules in connection with the chase and shooting. The Board found the officers guilty of violating the department's rules and discharged Daniels, Williams and Wilson from their duties as police officers and suspended Carter from his duties for one year. Upon administrative review, the trial court affirmed Daniels' discharge, reversed Carter's suspension, and remanded Wilson's and Williams' cases back to the Board for new hearings. Daniels appeals from the trial court's order affirming the Board's decision to discharge her. In a related case consolidated on appeal with Daniels' action, the superintendent appeals the trial court's order reversing the Board's decision to suspend Carter.
On appeal, Daniels argues that (1) the Board's findings that she was unjustified in her use of deadly force, disobeyed orders to terminate a chase, and failed to report that the officers fired their weapons in an earlier incident were against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) the Board's consolidation of all four cases, negative pretrial publicity and failure of the Board members to attend the administrative hearing deprived her of her right to be tried fairly. The superintendent argues that (1) the Board's findings that Carter failed to immediately report a weapon discharge incident, disregarded orders to terminate the chase, and falsely informed the police department that Smith had threatened officers with his vehicle were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) the Board's decision to suspend Carter was not arbitrary, unreasonable or unrelated to the requirements of service. We affirm the court's order affirming Daniels' discharge and reverse the court's order with regard to Carter and reinstate Carter's suspension.
Outlined briefly, the facts are as follows. On June 4, 1999, Raymond Smith picked Haggerty up after work and drove to the south side of Chicago. At approximately 5 p.m., Smith stopped his car to speak to a friend standing on the sidewalk. Sixth District police officer Daniels and her partner Williams pulled up beside Smith's car in their squad car (Beat 632). Williams was driving and Daniels was in the passenger seat. Daniels asked Smith for his driver's license and insurance certification. Smith drove off without producing either document.
Beat 632 followed Smith's car and stopped it one block south. Having checked the license plates on Smith's car, the officers knew that the plates were not registered to the car. The officers reiterated their request for Smith's license and insurance information, but Smith again drove off without producing either. Beat 632 pursued Smith's car. After following Smith's car for approximately 15 blocks, Daniels notified the police department's Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) that Beat 632 was following Smith's vehicle. When questioned by the OEC dispatcher, Daniels denied that Beat 632 was "chasing" Smith's car.
Beat 632 ultimately pursued Smith's car for 30 blocks to the intersection of 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, where Smith's car finally stopped when it was cut off by Beat 634. Beat 634 was driven by Carter. Carter's partner, Wilson, was in the passenger seat. Carter's police radio was broken, but he and Wilson heard Beat 632's report of the pursuit over Wilson's radio and decided to assist Beat 632. After Smith stopped, the four officers exited their cars and approached Smith's car with their weapons drawn. They ordered Smith to exit his car but he refused to do so. Instead, he backed his car up between the two squad cars and, driving in reverse, fled westbound on 95th Street. Officers Daniels, Williams and Wilson fired at the retreating car. Although the officers would later claim that they fired their weapons because Smith tried to run them down, two independent witnesses standing close to the intersection stated that Smith's car never threatened the officers. In contrast to the officers' testimony, the witnesses and Smith stated that the car never advanced toward the officers and that it drove backwards on 95th Street rather than in a forward direction.
At the first intersection, Smith turned his car forward and sped north with Beats 632 and 634 in active pursuit. Daniels contacted OEC and informed the dispatcher of the pursuit and that shots had been fired and called out the intersections that Beat 632 passed during the beginning of the chase. Daniels testified that she reported "police shots fired" or "632, 634 shots fired" but the dispatcher did not hear the "shots fired" report. The other three officers did not report that shots had been fired or that they had discharged their weapons. Therefore, neither the dispatcher nor the OEC supervisor, Sergeant Bednarek, was aware that shots had been fired or that Beat 634 was also involved in the pursuit. Sergeant Bednarek ordered the dispatcher to inform Beat 632 to terminate the chase if the car was only wanted "for traffic," i.e., a traffic violation. The dispatcher conveyed the order to terminate to Beat 632 which Daniels acknowledged.
The transcripts of the taped OEC call show that the communications between Beat 632 and OEC were garbled, interrupted and hard to understand. The transcript of the tape prepared by the department's Office of Professional Standards (OPS) notes "possibly 'shots fired'" at the salient point in the transcript. After listening to the tape of the call several times, the dispatcher acknowledged that, although he had not heard "shots fired" when the call came in, "shots fired" "could be" on the tape and that it "sounded like it." Sergeant Bednarek testified that, although he had listened to the taped response from Beat 632 at least four or five times, he really could not understand what was being said. The salient portion of the OPS transcript shows the following communications:
"Dispatch: Alright. 632 is following a car eastbound on 95th past Prairie at this time. A male driver of a grey car is refusing to pull over at this time.
Bt. 620 [Sgt. Bednarek]: Okay, 1-4 squad. [W]here are they at now and what's he wanted for?
Dispatch: Alright, 632 talk to 620. 632?
Bt. 632: ([G]arbled response. [P]ossibly 'shots fired')
Bt. 632: Westbound on Nine Five. Car went around down Langley on Nine Five.
Dispatch: Okay, it went southbound on Langley from 95. 620 is requesting what is he wanted for?
Bt. 632: ([G]arbled response)
Dispatch: That car is southbound on Langley from 95th Street, southbound on Langley from 95th St.
Bt. 632: ([G]arbled statements)
Bt. 620: What's that car wanted for? If it's just wanted for traffic and it's still going, tell them to stop chasing.
Dispatch: 632, you copy? 632, 620 said if it's for traffic only, cut it off.
Bt. 632 [Daniels]: St. Lawrence . . . bound.
Dispatch: Alright. Alright. Southbound on St. Lawrence. I
believe St. Lawrence is a one-way.
Bt. 632: Eastbound 90th from St. Lawrence.
Dispatch: Eastbound 90th from St. Lawrence. ...