SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Appellate Court ruled last week that a Cook County judge erred when he overturned the firing of a Chicago police officer who was dismissed over allegations that he wrongfully detained a man and dropped him off at a park far from his home after deciding not to make an arrest.
Appellate Court Judge Leroy Martin wrote in the ruling that Officer Eugene Posey “ignored his duties to uphold the law and protect the public when he, without justification, detained (Corey) Stewart and drove him to McKinley Park, a place neither he nor Stewart were familiar with, and abandoned him.”
“The efficacy and discipline of a police force is impaired when a police officer fails to abide by the laws he has sworn to enforce,” Martin wrote in a 30-page decision.
In an earlier ruling, Cook County Judge Peter Flynn had agreed with the Chicago Police Board that the officer unlawfully detained Stewart during an encounter outside a CTA Red Line train station in 2014, but determined the board’s decision to fire the officer was too harsh. Flynn ordered the board to come up with a more lenient penalty.
The board then gave Posey a five-year suspension, but the city nonetheless appealed the ruling to the appellate court.
The police board declined to comment on the latest ruling.
Since 2016, Cook County and state Appellate Court judges have heard appeals of police board firings and upheld the board’s decisions in about 22 cases, including Posey’s, according to figures provided by the board. In the last decade, Posey’s is one of only a handful of board decisions that were reversed by the Cook County court before being upheld by the state appellate court, the board said.
Neither Posey nor Stewart could be reached for comment. It was not known if the officer will appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The case involving Stewart wasn’t the first time Posey had been brought before the police board on misconduct allegations, nor was it the first time he had been involved in the court appeals process.
In August 2014, three months after his encounter with Stewart, Posey was accused of pointing a gun at a woman in Aurora without justification while off-duty, and lying about details of the incident with investigators.
The board found Posey not guilty of committing any disciplinary infractions in that case, but the Chicago Police Department appealed that decision to a Cook County judge, who reversed the board’s ruling. That led the board to penalize Posey with a 60-day suspension.
The case was then taken to the state appellate court, which sided with Posey, and the original not guilty ruling from the board was reinstated.
After the board fired Posey in 2017 for his confrontation with Stewart, Judge Flynn “affirmed the board’s findings of fact and conclusions of law,” but reversed its decision to fire the officer, “finding that, in fairness to (Posey’s) 17-year history as a police officer, the discipline should be something less than outright discharge,” according to court records.
The police board in 2018 suspended Posey for five years while maintaining he still should have been fired.
The allegations against Posey stem from his May 12, 2014, encounter with Stewart, who worked at the time as a loss prevention officer for a security company, at the Garfield Boulevard Red Line station.
Posey was in a police vehicle with his partner when he saw Stewart with a “dirty” look on his face, and saw him spit in front of the vehicle, according to Posey’s police board testimony at his June 2017 disciplinary hearing.
Posey testified he got out of the vehicle to talk to Stewart “because he looked suspicious” before handcuffing him and putting him in the back of the vehicle.
Posey testified that he decided to write Stewart a ticket for disorderly conduct and didn’t intend to arrest him, but intended to go to a police station to get a citation book,
But it was noted during cross-examination that Posey didn’t mention any of that to the now-defunct Independent Police Review Authority, which initially investigated the case.
Posey testified before the board that as he and his partner drove Stewart to the police station, his “demeanor changed” and Posey decided to let him go. Posey claimed he took Stewart out of the vehicle and removed his handcuffs, not realizing they were in McKinley Park on the Southwest Side, some five miles from where Stewart was picked up.
Stewart, however, testified to the board that he spit on the ground because he had a cold. After he was dropped off in McKinley Park, he called his mother on his cellphone and told her, “Ma, if anything happen to me, the police did it,” according to Martin’s opinion.
A gas station employee also testified that Stewart told him that night what happened with Posey and that Stewart “was angry that something wrong happened to him, and he wanted to report it to a police sergeant,” court records said.
Martin’s opinion noted that GPS records from Posey’s vehicle “corroborated Stewart’s account of the events.” An emergency dispatch supervisor also testified at the board there was no communication between Posey, his partner and the dispatch center for a one hour and 24-minute period during which time they had Stewart in their custody, Martin’s opinion noted.
The board pointed out that neither Posey nor his partner, who was not disciplined in the case, notified an emergency dispatcher about detaining Stewart, a violation of Police Department rules. Based on witness testimony that the board called “competent and uncontradicted,” it also ruled that Posey violated Stewart’s civil rights and had no reason to detain, handcuff or transport him.