CHICAGO | A Cook County judge issued a written opinion Thursday that reverses the Lynwood Police and Fire Board decision firing a police officer because a criminal suspect drove away in the officer's squad car.
The opinion by Judge Mary Mikva says the Police Board did not have sufficient reason to order the dismissal of Joseph Marigliano for the Dec. 11, 2012, incident that was the subject of hearings in Lynwood last year.
But Mikva, in her ruling, did say that Marigliano could be disciplined in some other form for the incident.
“Petitioner’s discharge (from the department) was not warranted, (but) the evidence does support charges against petitioner,” she wrote, adding the Police Board would have to decide the penalty.
Christopher Cooper, an attorney provided to Marigliano by the Fraternal Order of Police, said he believes the Police Board should merely dismiss the case and let Marigliano back onto the department.
He acknowledged they have a 30-day time period in which to file an appeal of Mikva’s ruling, but said he expects Marigliano — who had been with the Lynwood Police Department for six years — to eventually get his job back.
"He’s ecstatic," Cooper said of Marigliano. "He’s looking forward to being back on the streets in Lynwood.”
Cooper said Marigliano had found part-time security work to keep him busy while the Police Board and court processes were ongoing.
“He is a qualified police officer, no matter what the village says,” Cooper said of Marigliano.
Timothy Lapp, an attorney hired to guide the Police Board through the Marigliano hearings, was not available Thursday for comment. Lynwood Police Chief Michael Mears did not immediately return calls to The Times.
Village President Gene Williams had little to say about the case. “That’s interesting,” he said of the ruling.
The case focused on the December 2012 incident, when Marigliano was on duty and responded to a call to assist in a police chase on foot.
Marigliano got out of his squad car to help in that chase. But the criminal suspect was able to get to Marigliano's squad car and drive away. Police Department officials said during the Police Board hearings Marigliano was negligent in not activating a “lockout switch” in the car that is designed to keep other people from driving away in the vehicle.
The suspect eventually crashed the car, destroying it, officials said.
In her written opinion, Mikva said there is no specific rule requiring the lockout switch to be triggered, and also supported Marigliano’s claim that the reason the suspect was able to get to his squad car was because he was trying to help another police officer in the chase who had stumbled and fell.
While village officials argued the case was embarrassing to the Police Department’s image, Mikva wrote that police officials, “offered absolutely no specifics as to how this incident impacted public perception, or even as to who in the public was supposed to have been influenced.”
Mikva also wrote, “The evidence here is extremely slim to support the charge.”