02/07/2008

Ill. officer requests demotion

By Jo Napolitano
Chicago Tribune

CICERO, Ill. — A Cicero police commander under investigation for possible drug use asked to resign from his post and be demoted to patrolman the day before he underwent a town-ordered drug screening.

Wesley Scott did not give a reason for the unusual request in his letter to the police superintendent, town spokesman Dan Proft said. But under the town's new drug use policy, a police commander could be fired for a first-time minor drug offense while an officer might get a five-day unpaid suspension.

The superintendent has not acted on the request.

Scott, who on Jan. 27 was cited on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession by Chicago police, declined to comment.

"I don't wish to speak with anyone," he said.

Scott was pulled over for running a stop sign on Chicago's South Side, authorities said. Police said they noticed an odor in the car and searched it, finding a burned marijuana cigarette and a bag of marijuana.

Scott, 47, was ordered to take a hair follicle drug test Friday. The results will not be available until later this week. Meanwhile, he is on paid leave from his $80,000-a-year job.

Scott, the town's first black police officer, was appointed patrol commander in 2005 by Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, his friend and former fellow police officer.

Although a previous administration operated under a "three-strikes-you're-out rule," the town's new drug policy says a non-union employee can be fired for one drug offense. Police commanders are appointed and are not part of a collective bargaining unit.

Proft said it is possible that Scott could lose his commander's job if the test showed he had used marijuana, while an officer probably would not. "Under the current contract, it's unlikely they could be fired," he said.

Proft said Dominick is "deathly serious" about enforcing the stricter policies because he believes police should set a positive example for the community.

"We have a street gang problem in Cicero," he said. "Street gangs are funded in part by the sale of illicit narcotics. Wesley is a police commander, and the town's drug policy, effective Jan. 1, is zero tolerance."

Proft said the town would not act on Scott's request to resign his supervisory post until the investigation is completed.

"He is still a commander," Proft said. "What the administration does will not be guided by Wesley's self-discipline. It will be based on evidence. We are in a wait-and-see mode on that."

Scott met with the police superintendent last week, but Proft would not disclose the nature of the conversation.

"At this point, to be fair, we are just going to gather the evidence and wait for the results of the test," he said.

Scott remains the highest-ranking African-American on the force, and Proft said he is well-respected.

"There is a strong affinity for Wesley," he said. "There absolutely is. That's why this is a distressing matter for Larry and for the town."

Proft said town officials do not consider Scott's resignation request an admission of guilt.

Copyright 2008 The Chicago Tribune

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