Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006 02:23 pm
Taking it to court
Complaint outlines ex-narcotics cops allegations of retaliation
Springfield Police Department Chief Don Kliment will be named as the defendant in a lawsuit from the unlikeliest of sources — next-door neighbor and fellow union activist Ron Vose. Vose, who served more than 27 years on the department and won numerous awards for his work in undercover narcotics investigations, resigned Jan. 19, citing fear of retaliation for complaints he had filed against detectives in SPD’s major-case unit. Those complaints, contained in a 20-page memo he submitted to Kliment in March, form the basis of an ongoing Illinois State Police investigation that has already resulted in two SPD detectives’ being put on administrative leave: Detective Paul Carpenter was placed on leave Oct. 4, and Detective Jim Graham was placed on leave Jan. 17. So far, the detectives have not been officially charged with any wrongdoing, nor are they mentioned by name in Vose’s lawsuit. Deputy Chief William Rouse, who supervises SPD’s criminal-investigations division, will be named as a co-defendant in the complaint. Rouse could not be reached, and Kliment declined to comment on Vose’s lawsuit, which is set to be filed this week. But the litigation comes as no surprise; in his resignation letter, Vose mentioned that he had hired a lawyer. According to an 18-page draft of the lawsuit obtained by Illinois Times, Vose alleges that Kliment and Rouse violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech by retaliating against him for exposing the detectives’ alleged misconduct. This retaliation came in the form of a “forced” transfer from the narcotics unit he had supervised for three years to street patrol. Vose claims that this transfer constituted a demotion and served to isolate and embarrass him, damaging his personal and professional reputation to the extent that he felt he had no choice but resign. “The treatment which Vose received by and the actions taken against him by Defendant Kliment and Defendant Rouse, culminating in Vose’s demotion from a supervisory position in a criminal investigation unit to the patrol division, communicated to Vose that he had no credibility to his superior officers and made it intolerable for Vose to continue to work as a police officer with the City of Springfield,” the complaint states. Vose will seek $300,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages from each defendant. The complaint does not include Vose’s 20-page memo, but it does shed light on the controversy that has plagued the police department over the past two years. Vose alleges in the complaint that problems with the major-case detectives surfaced around summer 2004, when he learned that they were obtaining search warrants on the basis of narcotics evidence found in “trash rips.” Officers would sift through a suspect’s garbage and use any indication of drugs (a baggie with marijuana stems and seeds, for example) to persuade a judge to grant a search warrant for the suspect’s residence. For major-case detectives, such searches could provide a means of entry to look for weapons, bloody clothing, or other evidence of nonnarcotic crimes. Vose’s complaint characterizes the major-case unit’s use of narcotics searches as “pretextual” and “not always based upon probable cause.” According to his complaint, Vose’s initial concern was the lack of coordination between the major-case unit and the narcotics unit, specifically that the major-case unit’s searches could compromise the narcotics unit’s investigations. But once he reviewed an unspecified number of search-warrant applications and subsequent warrants, Vose found other problems with the major-case detectives’ techniques, according to his complaint. The detectives had obtained some search warrants using information from “confidential sources” or paid informants who had not been properly documented by SPD and some by filing “factually inaccurate, misleading or false affidavits,” the complaint states. Vose claims that he shared this information with Rouse and Kliment and talked about his concerns during department meetings but that no one addressed the issues. Tensions increased in November 2004, during the murder trial of Anthony Grimm — a 10-year-old “cold” case that Graham and Carpenter had resurrected when they found DNA evidence related to Grimm. In a move that has been repeatedly cited by police sources as inappropriate, Vose attended the Grimm trial as a spectator. During a break, he and Graham had a brief argument. In his complaint, Vose claims he attended the trial only because he had received information that “there may be a problem” with the detectives’ planned testimony. He had suggested that Rouse attend the trial, but Rouse did not have time and authorized Vose to attend. The confrontation with Graham occurred when Graham accused Vose of “working for the defense,” the complaint states. The detective and his supervisor subsequently filed an internal-affairs complaint against Vose, and he received a letter of reprimand for the incident. Graham had problems of his own at the trial. Having initially testified that he had not made a report of an interview with Grimm’s roommate, he reversed himself minutes later after finding that report — along with another unproduced document — in his “personal folder.” Private investigator Bill Clutter, who was hired by Grimm’s defense team, later filed internal-affairs complaints against both Graham and Carpenter, alleging that the detectives intimidated a defense witness and withheld exculpatory interview reports. In December 2004, shortly after the Grimm trial, Rouse ordered Vose to report in writing any alleged incidents of misconduct by detectives — the document that has become known as “the 20-page memo.” By the time Vose completed it, in March 2005, he had decided to deliver it only to Kliment and not to Rouse because “Vose was aware that his memorandum would document the failure of Defendant Rouse to act on Vose’s prior complaints against the detectives,” the lawsuit states. About the same time, Kliment and Rouse assigned a second sergeant to the narcotics unit to handle administrative matters (e.g., payroll and scheduling) with the understanding that Vose would concentrate on operational issues. Unbeknownst to Vose, this second sergeant, Kurt Banks, participated in at least two drug searches — one based on a questionable warrant obtained by major-case-unit detectives, according to the lawsuit. On April 12, in an apparent effort to resolve problems between the major case and narcotics units, Kliment met with Rouse, Banks, Lt. Rickey Davis, and Vose. According to the lawsuit, the meeting ended with Kliment’s telling Vose to “either get along with the detectives and supervisors” or transfer to patrol. On April 27, Kliment transferred Vose to patrol.