Police Chief James Ryan’s testimony that began in November finally came to an end last week, as he and attorney Jeanine Stevens tangled over now familiar issues in the termination hearing for Sgt. Dan Harder.
When Stevens, who is defending Harder, questioned Ryan, she again tried to show that Ryan treated Harder more harshly than he treated other officers for similar offenses.
One of the charges against Harder is that he lied about his whereabouts while out sick.
Stevens asked Ryan about police dispatcher Michael O’Rourke, who was given a three day unpaid suspension after calling in sick when the real reason he didn’t come into work was that he had been drinking. Forest Park police department rules prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages within eight hours of reporting for duty.
Asked how the two cases differed, Ryan answered that “(O’Rourke) lied to the dispatcher. He was honest with me.”
Ryan also mentioned that Harder had received 28 tickets for parking violations and for having expired license plates as another factor in the decision to terminate Harder, though this was not one of the charges filed against him. He said that Lt. Steve Weiler had been going into the Forest Park police department computer system to delete Harder’s tickets.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate and it is in direct opposition to the policy that all non suited tickets go the police chief,” he said.
That brought out this response from Stevens: “You’re going to dig and dig and you’re going to claw and claw until you get rid of him.”
Stevens asked that Ryan produce records of all non-suited tickets during his term as chief for the next hearing.
Under friendly questioning by his lawyer Patrick Lucansky, Ryan denied that his goal was to get rid of Harder. He also denied having any animus towards Harder and denied he was targeting or retaliating against Harder for his participation in a 2002 sexual harassment suit against the department.
When Ryan’s testimony was finally completed, Detective Peter Morrisette briefly testified that he took a complaint from suspected Wrigleyville rapist Paul Cruikshank that he was beaten while held in the Forest Park jail and passed along the complaint to Harder, helping Stevens make her case that police brutality has been overlooked by the department.
But under questioning by Lucansky, Morrisette said that he doesn’t know whether Cruikshank’s injuries were caused by his victim fighting back and gouging him in the mouth of by Forest Park police officers.
“I just took his complaint and passed it on,” Morrisette testified. “I don’t know whether it was true or not.”
The final witness called by Stevens on Thursday was Lt. Steve Knack, a 26-year veteran of the force. Stevens tried to show that swearing was commonplace around the department.
One of the charges against Harder is that he called officer Young Lee an (expletive) idiot during an altercation at role call. Stevens asked Knack if he had sworn around Ryan in the past.
“Probably,” Knack answered, affirming that he had not been disciplined for these actions.
Stevens also questioned a sheepish Knack about an incident investigation report form that Knack filled out and handed to Harder, which, among other things, referred to Harder as an “(expletive) idiot” and characterized Harder as having “less than normal brain functions.”
“I prepared it as a joke,” said Knack. “I was just trying to make a private joke between me and Daniel Harder.”
Knack ultimately received a verbal reprimand for the preparing the form.
Knack testified that he considered Harder a friend and that he and Harder both frequently used foul language, often directing their comments at themselves.
“Dan and myself must have referred to ourselves as expletive idiots hundreds of times,” said Knack.
Observing the nearly four hour hearing was attorney Michael Nazarof of the firm Litchfield Cavo, LLP, which has been retained to represent the village in the federal civil suit brought by Harder against the village and several officials. Nazarof said he was being paid to attend the hearing.
Village Administrator Michael Sturino said the village’s insurance company is paying the legal fees for its defense in the civil suit.
One light moment in the hearing came when Stevens’ cell phone rang.
The ring tone? The theme from the old television show “Mission Impossible.”
The next hearing is scheduled for May 24 at 7 p.m.