from the Circuit Court of Livingston County No. 16MR120
Honorable Robert M. Travers, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Harris and Justice Turner
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Defendants, the Board of Trustees of the City of Pontiac
Police Pension Fund (Board) and the City of Pontiac (City),
appeal from the circuit court's decision reversing the
Board's decision to deny plaintiff, Shawna Gilliam,
"line-of-duty" disability benefits. Defendants
insist plaintiff failed to prove she was injured during an
"act of duty." We disagree and affirm the decision
of the circuit court.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 On April 3, 2012, plaintiff, a Pontiac police officer, was
injured during a voluntary bicycle-patrol training session.
As a result of this injury, three years later, on June 2,
2015, plaintiff filed an application with the Board
requesting a "line-of-duty" disability pension
pursuant to section 3-114.1(a) of the Illinois Pension Code
(40 ILCS 5/3-114.1(a) (West 2010)). In the alternative,
plaintiff requested a "non-duty" disability
pension. In December 2015, the City filed a motion to
intervene in plaintiff's application. Without objection,
the Board allowed the City's motion.
4 A. The Administrative Hearing
5 In May 2016, the Board conducted a hearing on
plaintiff's application. The Board heard testimony from
plaintiff, the instructor of the bicycle-patrol training
session, and the police chief and reviewed approximately 20
exhibits, most of which consisted of plaintiff's medical
6 Plaintiff testified she became a Pontiac police officer on
January 1, 2002, and throughout her tenure, she was employed
as a patrol officer. On April 2, 2012, she participated in a
training program taught by Charlie Summers, an International
Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) instructor. Two
other Pontiac police officers participated as well. The City
provided the bicycle she used during training. Plaintiff was
on duty and wore her bicycle-patrol uniform, equipped with
her vest, duty belt, and service weapon during the course.
According to plaintiff, she was participating in the training
in order to be certified for police bicycle-patrol duties.
Although she knew how to ride a bicycle, this course was
intended to teach "tactics" specifically used by
police officers while responding to calls and conducting
traffic stops. On the day of her injury, plaintiff was being
trained on how to conduct a felony pursuit. Specifically, she
was engaged in a maneuver called "parallel curb
ascending." She had successfully performed the maneuver
approximately six times before she fell onto her right arm,
injuring her forearm and wrist. She testified that her arm
was smashed between the butt of her service weapon and the
7 Plaintiff, with Summers's assistance, immediately
completed an injury report, but plaintiff participated in the
remainder of the four-day training session. After the
training, plaintiff sought medical treatment on April 5,
2012, and was diagnosed with a triangular fibrocartilage
complex (TFCC) tear requiring three surgeries. The treating
and examining physicians all agreed she was unable to carry
out her duties as a patrol officer due to the injury. In
December 2015, the Pontiac Police Department notified her she
was being placed on nonpay status of employment.
8 Charlie Summers, a sergeant with the Illinois State
University Police Department, testified on the City's
behalf. He said while he was teaching the IPMBA basic course,
he saw plaintiff fall while attempting a parallel curb
ascent. He described the maneuver as one used to
"rapidly get out of the roadway to get up on the curb.
It can be a defensive movement or an offensive movement
depending on what your role is at that time, but most of the
time it's used to divert from getting into an accident
with a car or something like that. It's a diversive
action." He said he does not teach civilians this
technique; he only teaches the "police part of it."
9 Chief James Woolford testified on behalf of the City. He
explained that in order to become a bicycle-patrol officer,
an officer can either request to attend the training class or
wait until information about an upcoming training class is
disseminated. Woolford said becoming a bicycle-patrol officer
was entirely voluntary. The following exchange occurred:
"Q. And describe the nature of the class for us.
A. The nature of the class is a four-day class to learn basic
police officer bicycle skills, to patrol in uniform and
handle calls within your designated patrol area on a bicycle.
* * *
Q. Okay. Are there any educational or experience
prerequisites before an officer can attend the class?
A. We don't have anything set in stone, but it's
typically an officer off of probation, so we want an officer
who is no longer overwhelmed by just learning their patrol
Q. Does there have to be any extensive pre-bicycle riding
experience before they take the course?
A. We've-no, we've never said anything like that.
It's useful to be a bike enthusiast or willing to do it,
but we have never set any hard rules or any requisites.
Q. Okay. And have you taken the class?
A. I have.
Q. All right. Currently right now on the department, how many
officers are there that have taken the class and that are
available to ...