LYNWOOD | The village’s Police and Fire Commission will meet Monday to determine what penalty, if any, ought to be assessed against a police officer whose squad car was stolen by a criminal suspect.
Attorneys for Officer Joe Marigliano have said they believe he was being a dedicated patrolman who was doing his job in trying to capture a criminal suspect on foot when that suspect managed to get into the Lynwood squad car and drive away for a short period of time.
The Police and Fire Commission took a different view of the Dec. 11, 2012, incident, deciding by a 3-0 vote on Tuesday that Marigliano was legally “liable” for the incident. Timothy Lapp, an attorney for Lynwood government who advised the Police Commission, said, “It’s the equivalent of being found guilty.”
That decision was reached following eight hours of testimony by officials Monday and Tuesday.
Among those officials were five police officers and police dispatchers who testified on behalf of Marigliano’s character and argued he did not do anything professionally wrong.
When the Police Commission reconvenes at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Village Hall, 21460 Lincoln Highway, it will be asked to decide what penalty should be assessed.
Attorneys for Police Chief Michael Mears, who have described Marigliano’s actions as a “lapse in judgment,” have said they believe Marigliano should lose his job, while Christopher Cooper, an attorney provided to Marigliano by the Fraternal Order of Police, will argue for a lesser penalty.
Cooper said he believes the Police Commission is using improper standards to judge his client’s conduct. “They’re not experienced with handling a case like this,” Cooper said.
That's why Cooper wanted Crete Police Chief James Paoletti to testify on behalf of Marigliano to explain how police officers are supposed to handle themselves when they leave their vehicles. The Police Commission did not allow Paoletti to testify.
“Mr. Paoletti’s knowledge, if allowed to be imparted to the Lynwood Fire and Police Board commissioners, would inform and educate the commissioners as to the police conduct and proposed discipline” that apply to this case, according to an Offer of Proof written by Cooper and submitted to the police board.
Marigliano was on duty in the early hours of Dec. 11, when he heard a fellow officer was trying to stop a suspect in the slashing of a Chicago Heights woman. When Marigliano arrived at the Lynwood location of the traffic stop, he positioned his car to block the suspect from trying to drive away.
When the suspect tried fleeing on foot, Marigliano got out of his squad car and chased him.
Cooper said Marigliano was doing his job. But Mears’ attorneys say Marigliano left his car door open and the engine running, and failed to use a lockout switch that would have prevented the suspect from driving away with the squad car.
Following a short police chase, the suspect was caught and arrested, although the squad car was damaged beyond repair.