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Proviso Probe

Sunday, February 19, 2006

PO-PO, Sgt. Harder termination: Chief Ryan lies again [FP]

I attended the Forest Park Fire and Police Commission hearing on the termination of Sgt. Dan Harder last Thursday.

Here’s the bottom line on the case against Harder: It’s thoroughly flawed and obviously so. He’s clearly being fired for something other that the offenses listed in the charges. Ryan has lied throughout his testimony and the only way someone could believe Ryan’s version of events is if s/he were emotionally invested in firing Harder from the beginning.

The charges against Harder:
1. He called another officer a “fucking idiot”.
2. He took too many sick days at the wrong time.
3. His account of a conflict with Sgt. Mike Murphy—an unreliable cop with suspect credibility—differed from Murphy’s.
4. Harder lied to Ryan as to his whereabouts on a sick day.

Previously, Stevens has shown that using the word “fuck” isn’t rare in the Forest Park PD. In fact, Harder was called a “fucking idiot” in writing--as a joke.

The bulk of Harder’s sick time was pre-approved under the Family Medical Leave Act. He also took off three Fridays in a five week period. Under the collective bargaining agreement Harder was entitled to 80 sick days per year. Harder received no written warning for excessive absenteeism.

On Thursday Police Chief Jim Ryan continued to be cross examined by Harder’s attorney Jeanine Stevens.

The hearing opened with Ryan’s attorney, Patrick Lucansky, presenting Stevens with a Village of Forest Park check to Harder for $1,200+. Lucansky expected Harder’s side to be happy about the check. Stevens made it clear from her body language she wasn’t impressed.

The check was reimbursement for Harder’s personal expenses in connection with an official program. When he submitted the claim to Ryan in the past, Ryan insisted Harder prove he hadn’t been reimbursed for the expenses already.

This was simply harassment. Ryan didn’t normally check claims this way. And he didn’t check Harder’s claim either. It was just a flimsy pretext for not processing Harder’s reimbursement. When called on it at the last hearing, Ryan couldn’t justify his behavior. The Forest Park PD’s hand was forced and Lucansky wanted Stevens and Harder to be thankful they paid Harder his money. Stevens was justified in treating Lucansky like an asshole.

Stevens cast doubt upon the excessive absenteeism charge by questioning Ryan about why he forced Harder to take two and a half months of involuntary comp time.

The lawyer supervising the hearing, Charles Hervas, has started to block Stevens from going into Murphy’s behavior because it’s a “collateral issue” and redundant at this point. Thursday’s hearing broke little new ground on Murphy.

Stevens bolstered her claim that Harder was punished differently than other officers by getting Ryan to testify that he didn’t make people complaining about Harder use the normal forms. And Ryan didn’t investigate some of the claims or even bother to get Harder’s side of the story, he just wrote Harder memos based on the assumption the complaints were accurate.

Beyond being untrustworthy, Ryan is an incompetent supervisor. He prioritizes loyalty to his half-assed ideas of policing over good order and discipline. And he can’t follow bureaucratic procedure on personnel issues.

Ryan didn’t issue Harder written warnings when he should have. He wrote inappropriate warnings without following procedure. And in one case he wrote-up Harder for the wrong offense.

Harder was suspended for pointing his firearm at a Forest Park resident “too long”. It was a hang-up 911 call with the back door open. Harder and Auxiliary Officer Moravec entered the home and loudly identified themselves as police officers. The 911 dispatcher was calling, but no one was answering the phone. There was a disassembled computer in the home. And when Harder did find a woman in the house, he kept his firearm raised after the woman identified herself as the homeowner.

Under Stevens’ questioning Ryan did identify one mistake by Harder. Harder should have entered the house with a more experienced officer than Moravec. But Ryan is so incompetent he had Harder disciplined for the firearm issue but not the issue of choosing Moravec as his back-up entering the home.

Commissioner Patrick Doolin told me the husband of the woman at the 911 call has some connection to Commissioner Tim Gillian.

The Gillian connection also builds a pattern. When Ryan said residents (plural) were complaining about Harder taking excessive breaks what he really meant was Commissioner Mark Hosty was complaining.

Most of the complaints against Harder seem to come from allies of Harder’s known enemies in the village or on the police force. They were people who didn’t like Harder speaking against sexual harassment or police brutality in the Forest Park Police Department.

Calderone wants the Fire and Police Commission hearings to continue without interference even though they are on track to cost $50-120,000. If the case for firing Harder had merit it might make sense. But the Harder firing is not based on police regulations, but on something else. Maybe Ryan is getting even with Harder for his role in the sexual harassment suit against the Forest Park PD. Maybe it’s because Harder complained about police brutality. Maybe Ryan and others just don’t like Harder.

It doesn’t matter. Firing Harder is not justified by the facts, regulations and standards applied in the Forest Park Police Department. Forest Park is going to lose this lawsuit in federal court--big time. It will cost Forest Park taxpayers plenty of money when the gavel drops.

Why not stop the waste and mendacity? Tony Calderone doesn’t want it to stop. See Forest Park Review (Bob Skolnik).

If Calderone wants this farce to continue he should sign a pledge that if the federal case results in punitive damages against Forest Park, he and his allies will resign from elective office. But what are the odds Calderone would take responsibility in this way?

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