Crown Point police officer who filed lawsuit suspended

2013-02-14T11:57:00Z 2013-02-15T07:56:03Z Crown Point police officer who filed lawsuit suspended Susan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com
February 14, 2013 11:57 am  • 

CROWN POINT | A police officer who is suing the mayor and the police chief in federal court will be suspended with pay pending possible termination.

The Board of Public Works and Safety on Thursday voted 3-0, with two members abstaining, in favor of suspending Sgt. James Poling. Poling has five days to request a hearing by the public works board.

Poling's lawyer, Christopher Cooper, said Thursday a hearing is being requested. It is to be held within 30 days.

The board's vote Thursday came after board members learned of a Feb. 4 letter from Poling to the city's Human Resources Department stating Poling had withdrawn his earlier resignation from the Police Department. 

City officials said Poling had agreed in October to resign effective June 2013.

In August 2012, Poling had been the subject of a Police Department investigation into his actions while supervising a May 2012 police pursuit, officials said Thursday.

Police Chief Pete Land told the public works board Thursday the investigation determined that as many as 30 Police Department and city policies and regulations were violated in the chase.

Officials said the chase, involving a traffic infraction, reached speeds at times in excess of 100 mph on Broadway between Crown Point and Gary. Poling supervised the chase, officials said. 

Land on Thursday requested the public works board approve suspending Poling with pay, based on the results of the investigation.

The five-member board, with members Randy Palmateer and Mayor David Uran abstaining, approved the suspension with pay, pending termination.

Officials said Thursday that Poling had agreed to resign from the department after hearing the results of the investigation into the police pursuit. The public works board approved the resignation Oct. 10.

In December, Poling applied for, and received, a $13,200 early separation incentive from the city, officials said Thursday.

City officials said they permitted the resignation to be effective April 2013, when Poling would have put in the 20 years needed to qualify for full police pension.

Poling's lawsuit filed Feb. 4 in federal court in Hammond said Poling sought to withdraw his resignation shortly after submitting it. He alleged he was under duress at the time he signed the agreement.

Poling alleges in the lawsuit Uran and Land attempted to terminate his employment in retaliation for Poling signing off on a Crown Point Fraternal Order of Police letter objecting to Uran's appointment of Palmateer to the Board of Public Works and Safety, which oversees police matters.

Poling was then president of the FOP lodge.

Poling alleges in the suit Palmateer pointed a gun at an on-duty police officer in July 2011.

The lawsuit also states Palmateer was arrested in Crown Point in August 2011 on a drunken driving charge. Palmateer since has pleaded guilty to reckless driving in connection with the incident.

In January 2012, Uran appointed Palmateer to the Board of Public Works and Safety.

Uran said Thursday that Poling's nearly 20 years service to the department was taken into account in the city's earlier decision to extend his resignation to April.

Poling, who had been assigned to the department's dispatch center, will be escorted from the police station and ordered to surrender his badge, gun and other belongings, officials said Thursday.

"What I'm guilty of is being a little too compassionate," Uran said Thursday. "We've worked hard to take politics out of the Police Department," he said, adding the city has put more officers on the street after building police ranks to their highest number ever.

"It didn't have to come to this," Uran said.

Cooper, Poling's lawyer, said in a Thursday email that the public works board had not notified him or Poling of what was to take place at the Thursday meeting.

Cooper said the Thursday actions by the board are retaliation for the lawsuit against Uran and Land.

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Crown Point, Ind. 46307
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Crown Point, Ind. 46307
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