Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 10 CH 23318 Honorable Stuart Palmer, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE
THE RETIREMENT BOARD OF THE POLICEMEN'S
JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Epstein and Justice Howse concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant, the Retirement Board of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago (the Board), appeals from the circuit court's order reversing the Board's denial of plaintiff Frank J. Esquivel's application for pension service credits for his work as a civilian employee for the Chicago police department. On appeal, the Board argues its decision finding that Esquivel's position as a civilian senior public safety aide/bilingual did not qualify for credit as prior other service pursuant to section 5-214(c) of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/5-214(c) (West 2008)) was correct and the trial court erred in reversing the Board's decision.
¶ 2 On February 6, 2009, Esquivel filed a letter with the Board seeking pension credit for prior service with the Chicago police department under section 5-214(c) of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/5-214(c) (West 2008)). Section 5-214(c) allows members of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund to receive credit for prior service "while performing investigative work for the department as a civilian employee of the department." 40 ILCS 5/5-214(c) (West 2008). Esquivel stated in his letter that he began his employment with the Chicago police department as a civilian employee on January 2, 1974 and he continued his civilian employment until February 1989 when he entered the Chicago Police Academy. In this letter, he was assigned initially to desk duties in the 5th Police District and his responsibilities included distribution of police radios, maintenance of attendance and assignment sheets and an aide to citizens requesting police assistance. Esquivel was later assigned the position of "timekeeper," and he maintained the daily time and transfer records of all sworn and civilian personnel in the district, including furlough schedules, leaves of absence and medical absences. Esquivel was also assigned to the senior services sections of the 5th and 4th Police Districts and he assisted a senior officer in the senior citizen's bracelet program.
¶ 3 In a March 2009 letter, Esquivel clarified that he sought credit for his years of service as a civilian employee from February 1980 to February 1989. He attached his employee work history from the City of Chicago department of human resources records management which indicated his title as senior public safety aide/bilingual. Esquivel also included a copies of the job description from November 1987 and October 1991. The November 1987 job description stated the "characteristics of the class" as "Under general supervision, organizes and supervises community functions; and performs related duties as required." Examples of the duties included, but were not limited to, "assists in the recruitment and training of volunteers for various department programs; schedules volunteer training and community meetings; [and] identifies community crime problems and recommends crime prevention programs." The duties also included "prepares and types a variety of reports regarding telephone inquiries and meetings attended; maintains a detailed filing system; answers telephone inquiries and prepares appropriate correspondence; [and] makes work decisions regarding methods of handling routine situations." The October 1991 job description listed similar duties.
¶ 4 The Board conducted a hearing on Esquivel's application over two days, August 27, 2009, and March 25, 2010. Esquivel testified in support of his application and presented two additional police officers as witnesses in support. He also submitted letters from police officers familiar with his civilian employment.
¶ 5 Esquivel testified at the August hearing date. He stated that the qualifications were "to speak in front of groups for safety purposes." He noted that his title of senior public safety aide/bilingual was because he was used as an interpreter. Esquivel testified that he went to the police academy for a 10- or 12-week training course. He said he wore a green uniform with a patch that stated "senior public safety," but he was not allowed to carry a weapon. At the time he was hired in 1974, there were very few Hispanic officers.
¶ 6 While Esquivel worked in the 5th District, he worked at the desk and was in charge of the radios and distribution of shotguns. He stated that he would assist with station inquiries and he would be called to interpret for Spanish-speaking individuals. Esquivel testified that he interpreted for police officers after an initial arrest. Esquivel assisted in giving Miranda rights, questioning, informing the individual of the bond, and letting the individual know the court date. Esquivel also stated that he was subpoenaed to testify in court multiple times involving testimony about the giving of Miranda rights.
¶ 7 Esquivel testified that while working in the senior services section, he would help an officer in contacting victims of "con games" or "purse snatchings." He would try to get a description of the individuals and any other information for senior officers to investigate. He stated that the information he provided helped the officers to set up "stings" at currency exchanges, but Esquivel did not go with them during the investigations. In one instance, Esquivel also translated a couple of letters written in Spanish that indicated several drug houses by names, addresses and descriptions of individuals. Following the translations, the police obtained a search warrant.
¶ 8 Captain Michael Magliano testified in support of Esquivel's application at the August hearing. Captain Magliano stated that he had known Esquivel since he came to the police department in April 1977. Captain Magliano said that there was a Hispanic community within the 5th District, but the officers could not understand victims or arrestees because the district had very few Spanish-speaking officers. For that reason, the officer used Esquivel "all of the time for interpretations as far as anybody that was victimized." He also used Esquivel "many times for helping [him] advise offenders of their Miranda warnings, talking with the victim, pulling out of the victim what happened to them so we could write our paper up." After the offender was advised of his rights, he would have Esquivel ask "some questions for us." Captain Magliano stated that Esquivel was "an asset to us all the time." Captain Magliano testified that if Esquivel was not available to assist in translations, it delayed an investigation "considerably."
¶ 9 At the March hearing date, Officer John Palmer testified in support of Esquivel's application. Officer Palmer stated that he was retired police officer and he worked with Esquivel when Officer Palmer was a speaker for the senior citizens unit for community services. They conducted crime prevention programs for the elderly. He worked city-wide, but mostly worked with Esquivel in Area 2, which included the 5th District. When Officer Palmer conducted programs in that area, half the people did not understand what he was saying. He would request Esquivel to assist him as an interpreter. The community meetings were to explain the "con games" happening to the elderly and how to prevent the crimes. Officer Palmer testified that if one of the Hispanic people had a problem or needed additional information, he or she would communicate to Esquivel what the problem was and he would bring the problem to Officer Palmer to report to his superiors. ...