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Local News

Joliet police board agrees to hear three suspension cases

Joe Clement, a Joliet police officer and a board member with the Joliet Park District, is seen here at a park board meeting.
Joe Clement, a Joliet police officer and a board member with the Joliet Park District, is seen here at a park board meeting.

The city's police board will hear appeals from officer Joe Clement and two other Joliet policemen seeking reversals of suspensions dating back to 2017.

A union attorney argued that Police Chief Al Roechner should have brought the cases to the board months ago.

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners on Wednesday did not decide whether Roechner should have filed the appeals or, as the police department's attorney argued, the union should have.

But Chairman Herb Lande said the argument was over "a technicality" while the officers' intention was to appeal their suspensions.

"We're all in agreement that their intent was to come before the board," Lande said.

The board voted, 4-0, to hear the cases in the next three months.

Clement, also a board member with the Joliet Park District, was suspended for 25 days after an investigation into his role in the Fiesta en la Calle controversy in September 2019. Clement, according to a Roechner memo on the matter, joined Mayor Bob O'Dekirk in accusing another officer of being drunk while working the street festival. The officer took blood and urine tests that night at a local hospital showing he had no alcohol in his system, Roechner said.

Clement was suspended in December 2019.

The other two cases coming to the board are those of Joshua Sawyer and John Perri.

Police union attorney Tamara Cummings said Sawyer was suspended for 10 days in 2017 for using excessive force, and Perry was suspended for 12 days in 2019 over whether he had responded to a call.

All three officers filed paperwork with the police department stating they intended to seek a hearing before the police board.

Cummings went to the City Council in May to complain that the police department was not bringing disciplinary cases to the board to be resolved.

She told the board that she "had conversations ad nauseam" with Roechner and former interim City Manager Steve Jones, who left the job Friday, over the matter and was led to believe they would file with the police board.

"I trusted in good faith that the right thing was going to take place," Cummings said.

Kelly Coyle, attorney for the police department, said rules require officers, not the chief, to bring cases to the board that involve suspensions of fewer than 30 days.

"We take opposition to the proposition that we somehow led them down the primrose path," Coyle said.

Coyle said the union did not begin discussions with the chief over the suspensions until the filing period for appeals had lapsed.

"Their job and responsibility was to file an appeal with you, and that was not done," she said.

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