By Carolyn Rusin
The Chicago Tribune
DES PLAINES, Ill. — A veteran Des Plaines police officer was fired Monday for verbally and physically harassing anti-abortion protesters last year outside a clinic.
Acting on a recommendation from Police Chief James Prandini, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously to fire Officer Dick Lalowski.
"This was an important case for us," Prandini said after the decision. "It sets the tone for our conduct. We can't have officers treat people like this."
The department alleged that while on duty in May 2006, Lalowski confronted a group of women as they were gathering outside the American Women's Medical Center on South River Road. Though the protesters were not interfering with the clinic's operations, Lalowski threatened to arrest them if they made contact with anyone, the department alleged.
After he was off duty, Lalowski returned in civilian clothes and confronted the protesters, calling one a "fat [expletive] cow," the department alleged.
"There's a code of conduct even off duty that the officers are bound to, and the rules and regulations of the Des Plaines Police Department clearly state that," Prandini said. "I just can't have a police officer going out and treating the public like he did in this incident -- the profanities, the verbal assault with the woman."
The board ruled in June that Lalowski, 44, had violated department regulations and policies. He was suspended without pay in October 2006.
Lalowski did not attend Monday's meeting. Richard Reimer, one of his lawyers, said he was disappointed by the decision.
"The guy had a good career here," Reimer said. "I think there could have been another decision short of discharge. They could have given him a lengthy suspension."
Reimer contended that Lalowski, who is receiving disability payments, has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since shooting and killing a man while on duty in 1995. The graphic signs of aborted fetuses that were carried by protesters triggered the disorder, he said.
Reimer said he did not know yet whether Lalowski would appeal the decision.
In deciding to fire Lalowski, the board took into consideration his past conduct, Board Chairman Randy Johnson said. Prandini said Lalowski had been suspended from his duties at least four times for inappropriate conduct.
Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune
Ill. officer fired for taunting protesters