Thursday, August 20, 2009

30-day suspension - not continuous!

Yesterday I wrote about the 30-day unpaid suspension imposed on Ofc. Mitch Falat of the Woodstock Police Department for violation of a department order by Chief Robert Lowen to stay away from a certain Woodstock woman.

Today I learned that Ofc. Falat is on duty, as he was during the period of investigation that preceded yesterday's Special Meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
Upon telephoning Chief Lowen of the Woodstock Police Department, I learned that his unpaid suspension is not 30 continuous days.

No wonder that yesterday's Board meeting was cut and dried. All the Board did was accept the negotiated deal between Ofc. Falat, his attorney and the Police Department. There was no discussion. No witnesses were called. The woman involved and her husband were not called to testify, so that the Board could hear all the details that led up to the "deal." The meeting was over in minutes, without reading or verbal discussion of the deal between the police department and Ofc. Falat.

The Board did not reveal the terms of the Agreed Disciplinary Order during the very brief meeting. They had been given copies of the disciplinary order by the chief and, once in session, they accepted it as offered.

Where is the representation of the victim in this whole matter? Is the City really looking out for the resident?

I didn't ask the chief why the 30 days were not continuous. But something about that arrangement really stinks. If an officer is told by the chief to stay away from a married woman in his community and he doesn't, the discipline needed to be swift and certain. And enough of a kick in the butt that he got the message.

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is supposed to serve as a Board of the City of Woodstock that is independent of the Police Department. That's why, I guess, they now, finally, meet at City Hall and not at the police department. But maybe it's time now for a complete turn-over in the Board, which is appointed by the Mayor, with the consent of the Council.

The Mayor, City Manager and members of the City Council ought to be hopping mad at this most recent deal and the way it was handled. Transparency in government has gone out the window. The proper action at the Special Meeting would have been for the charges to be submitted to the Board and the disciplinary agreement read aloud and submitted to the Board, after which they could have voted on it.

There will be more to this story.


Notawannabee said...

Gus, it seems you want to not just discipline the officer; you want to really HURT him. A suspension is a suspension regardless if it is 30 consecutive days or strung out over several pay periods.

Another thing to consider is the affect upon the department operations. Giving the agency the latitude to schedule his days off so that it does not require OT to cover his suspension days is in the best interest of the city.

Did you ever think of that or are you hung up on punishment?

Gus said...

No, I'm not hung up on punishment.

There are two issues here: the punishment (discipline) and the lack transparency of the City.

Had the P.D. clearly stated the terms of the discipline and their reasoning, that would be the end of it for me.

This morning's (8/21/09) Northwest Herald reveals another detail of the discipline: no intentional contact with City Councilman Ralph Webster, toward whom, according to Webster, Ofc. Falat made an obscene gesture in traffic.

Franker said...

Please explain why again the PD has to clearly state the terms of discipline and reasoning to YOU?

Franker said...

By breaking up the days saves the City a lot of money. More money than you will be saving the sheriffs office.

Gus said...

Frank, they don't have to explain to "me". They owe an explanation to the public, to the citizens, to the residents of Woodstock.

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is appointed by the Mayor, with consent of the City Council, and it reports to the Mayor, the Council and the City Manager. They are not lackies of the police department.

It is important that the separation be clear and distinct.

When the Board withholds information or fails to release full information, the public becomes suspicious. If they deal openly and forthrightly, then the public trust can be maintained.

In the absence of someone else to ask probing questions, I'll do it.

Richard W Gorski, M.D. said...

Same old, same old, continuous BS emanating from the Woodstock Police Department....think it could have some relationship to the quality of the leadership?

Notawannabee said...

Most agencies with a collective bargaining agreement have specific provisions that prevent the release of the names and details of personnel disciplinary actions.

Under the Freedom of Information act, (usually) the board goes into an executive session to discuss the disciplinary actions to be taken.

When names are published the discipline it does little except discredits the officer and department. The public jumps to the conclusion that ALL officers are violating rules and thereby the entire department becomes tainted.

I know of State Troopers that have been demoted, suspended and or fired and this is withheld from the public. The State does this to not tarnish it image.

I know of several firefighters that have been demoted, suspended and or fired and this is withheld from the public. Of course "The Fireman is your friend" mentality prevails and people ignore misbehavior by firefighters.

How often do you ever hear of a teacher being disciplined? School districts and teachers unions are very tight lipped.

I had a school bus pull directly in front of me and then speed 65 miles an hour down the road in a 50mph zone. I complained to District 200 and they refused to give me any information and did not even take my name.

Gus, maybe you should set you sights on something other than bashing cops. There are many fine accomplishments and heroic actions done everyday by these same departments you citizen. Maybe you should try and find some good and not listen to the likes of SirPumkin. His posts are the anger of fired cop with a huge grudge.

Gus said...

Thanks for your comment, Nota... it's mostly the "system" that disappoints me. Everybody makes mistakes. The important factor is to learn from it and move on - and not repeat the mistake.

Many mistake my griping for not liking cops. I do like cops. I like the ones who believe the laws are for them, too. I like the ones who don't abuse their authority. I like the ones who are citizens first, cops second.

I hope you reported the D200 bus incident to Supt. Wrzeski and to Transportation Director VanDyke. They should have taken your name and phone number, investigated, and gotten back to you.

Notawannabee said...

Noticed a typo corrected in error by spell check..the word is CRITICIZE

Gus, maybe you should set you sights on something other than bashing cops. There are many fine accomplishments and heroic actions done everyday by these same departments you CRITICIZE