A DuPage County judge today upheld the firing of a West Chicago police shift commander who invited almost all the on-duty members of his overnight shift into the police station to watch full-length feature movies on consecutive nights in 2009.
Sgt. Leonardo Aviles, a 19-year department veteran, filed suit after he was fired last year by the West Chicago Civil Service Commission for violating a series of department regulations.
"Street Kings," starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, is about the lives of Los Angeles police officers. "Pride and Glory," starring Colin Farrell and Edward Norton, is about the lives of New York City officers.
"The first night all of the officers on patrol duty, about eight, came in and watched the movie, and on the second night, all of the officers but one came in," said Patrick Bond, attorney representing Police Chief Donald Goncher, who sought Aviles firing.
Bond said that the officers were in the station for over two hours each evening and ate popcorn from an old-fashioned popcorn machine, and also consumed doughnuts and "sliders."
Joseph Mazzone, Aviles’ attorney who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the dismissal, told Judge Terence Sheen "there is no argument that what happened, happened. It was a pretty good movie. But there were no calls missed and it was understood that all calls would have be responded to.
"He was rewarding his shift," said Mazzone, who contended that city patrol officers at times had been allowed into the station at times to watch the World Series or Super Bowl.
He said that he took exception to only Aviles being punished and that no sanctions were sought for the patrol officers in attendance.
"If he had stolen money, or taken a bribe, he would deserve it, but in this case it doesn't amount to termination," said Mazzone, who said a lesser punishment, like a suspension, would have been more reasonable.
But James Knippen, attorney for the civil service commission, asked, "Is there a single member of the public that would say it is OK to watch the movies. I guess we could put all the officers in the police station and just wait for calls. The mere presence of officers on the street has value, and build confidence in the community.
"We don't know how many intoxicated motorists or speeders went through the city that night,” said Bond.
Sheen ruled that the civil service commission was within its rights to terminate Aviles. "There was a lack of good judgment. He was in charge and should have set an example."
Testimony at the last year's local hearing was that Aviles had brought in the first movie and that another officer had brought in the second.
Aviles attended today’s hearing but would not comment.