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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Picture of a Troubled Police Department

The Journal & Topics by Todd Wessell  -  April 25, 2012
Fired Cop Filed Complaint in 2009; Paint Picture Of Troubled Department

Des Plaines, IL - Disturbing problems within the Des Plaines Police Dept. go back at least three years and involve allegations of discrimination and the department’s inability to locate the driver of a truck that killed a Maine West High School student in 2010 who was walking home. These new revelations came to light this week following several interviews by the Journal & Topics Newspapers with knowledgeable sources and the obtaining of an official document in which police officer John Bueno charges that he had been the target of discrimination by his superior at the time, Deputy Chief Rich Rozkuszka. Bueno, who was recently fired from his police job that he had held since April 2002, filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Nov. 28, 2011. In that complaint, Bueno charges that Roskuszka on or about November 2009 “started calling me derogatory names related to my Mexican heritage.” Among the names he says he was called was “The dirty Mexican.” Bueno added that Rozkuszka would “make unnecessary physical contact with me in the police station in an attempt to harass and intimidate me.” The discrimination, Bueno added in the complaint, led to a decision to pull him off a special police detail resulting in the loss of valuable overtime pay. Subsequent complaints he made to then Police Chief Jim Prandini did not result in any corrective action, the officer continued, adding that on Oct. 31, 2011 he was notified that he was suspended from the force “relating to allegations that dated as far back as 24 months.” Wrote Bueno in his EEOC complaint, “At the time of this filing, I am currently on suspension for what I believe is discrimination based on my race and retaliation for my oral and written complaints regarding Rozkuszka’s conduct.” According to Mike Earl, Des Plaines’ director of Human Resources, the city has filed a “position statement” to Bueno’s complaint. The Journal & Topics Newspapers yesterday (Tuesday) asked Earl for a copy of that statement. In an email to the Journal & Topics Earl said, “The EEOC is in the process of conducting an investigation into Bueno’s discrimination charges. Once it concludes the investigation, the EEOC could issue a finding of no substantial evidence (that discrimination occurred) or a finding of substantial evidence. If the former, Bueno will be issued a ‘right to sue’ letter and will have 90 days to file suit in federal court if he so chooses.” Bueno was recently fired from his city job allegedly because he beat an individual either inside the downtown police station or in the station’s parking lot, city sources have said. Bueno has appealed his dismissal to a third party arbitrator who is responsible for hearing the case and ruling whether the termination will be upheld. A hearing has not been scheduled. Fellow police officer Andy Contreras is currently serving a four-month suspension. Acting City Manager Jason Slowinski had asked the three-member Board of Police & Fire Commissioners to fire both officers. Slowinski later dropped his request to have Contreras fired but instead to have him suspended with the agreement that he be allowed to return to the force. Sources have said that Contreras either had knowledge of the individual’s beating or did little or nothing to stop it or report it to his superiors. Neither Contreras nor Bueno have commented publicly.

Around the time that Bueno filed his discrimination charges last fall, Rozkuszka suddenly retired after 29 years on the force. Most police officers try to complete 30 years of police work before retiring because of pension benefits. A planned retirement party for Rozkuzka was suddenly canceled at the time. Since Rozkuszka’s retirement, several other major changes within the department have occurred with little public comment or explanation. Chief Prandini also suddenly retired on Jan. 1 following back surgery ending a career that spanned more than three decades. Several sources have said that Prandini was forced out mainly because he failed to address problems such as the discrimination charges filed by Bueno. A friend of Prandini recently said the retired chief is “bitter” about the way his departure was handled. Another explanation presented to the Journal & Topics this week painted a picture of a police department consumed by internal turmoil that impeded its ability to properly conduct some investigations. One such probe was the highly visible and tragic death of Maine West High School senior Choice Taylor on Nov. 5, 2010. Taylor, 17, died when a truck near the corner of Algonquin Road and Third Avenue struck and killed him as he was walking behind the vehicle. The truck continued west on Algonquin stopping a short distance away. Its driver, who has never been identified, stopped a short distance away to check if he had hit anything. He then left the scene. “They failed to come up with a suspect,” said a knowledgeable city employee. “There were three cars with witnesses behind the truck when Choice Taylor was killed. That was a major disappointment.” As reported in local media at the time, including the Journal & Topics, police spent several weeks searching for the truck driver, looking at video surveillance of the area and interviewing witnesses. Besides the sudden unexplained departures of Rozkuszka and Prandini, longtime police Commander Tim Veit also retired on Apr. 6 after a 31-year career in Des Plaines. As reported in the Wednesday, Apr. 18 Journal & Topics, an internal police probe has been underway for several weeks into allegations that Veit falsified records involving department police traffic safety campaigns in an effort to obtain additional grant money from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) and/other governmental agencies. Veit headed the department’s Traffic Unit. In the matter involving Bueno and Contreras, the city several months ago hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation. That firm has been paid more than $66,000 by the city since last year. It’s possible that the probe involving Veit could also be handed off to a private law firm. City officials have been unusually quiet about the police investigations and retirements. Slowinski, whose last day on the job was last Friday, has repeatedly declined comment. He did however issue a brief written statement about the matter about a month ago. Slowinski left his Des Plaines job to become village administrator in Lake Zurich. He has been replaced by Mike Bartholomew. Mayor Marty Moylan this week did acknowledge “some management problems within the police department, but declined to elaborate on the nature of those problems. “You can’t blame the beat officers,” said Moylan. “We have to give credit to the young guys on the street who are doing their job. When all is resolved we will have a better police department. If there was any wrongdoing, those responsible will be properly reprimanded.”


Anonymous said...

You think those are the only guys that commited police brutality? If you live in des plaines IL like I do...and your getting already know that you'll prob go to the pink room where the cops are gonna fuck you up cuz there ain't no cameras. Don't worry des plaines crooked cops were already forming a major lawsuits action against you and your notorious "pink" room

Anonymous said...

Des Plaines police are horrible. The most ridiculous, fucked up police dept., bunch of useless crazy officers and so called commanders and supervisors and some stupid deputy chief. The chief of police doesn't know or even care whats going on there. So unprofessional that they seem just mentally ill, yet they think they come across as bullying but they are even to dumb to do so lol, just look nuts as hell, plus stupid. They have no idea what they are doing there but they don't know that they don't know cause they are dumb plus crazy.

Anonymous said...

Des Plaines police are known for their excessive force. They are one of the most corrupt organizations i know. They make up charges of resisting arrest just so they can kick you in the ribs while your hand cuffed.

We need to remodel the whole department.