Oak Park police officer Christian Priesmeyer was ordered suspended without pay Nov. 17 by the Fire and Police Commission. Priesmeyer, a sworn police officer on the Oak Park force since 1989, had been suspended with pay for the past two months during an ongoing investigation into the incident.
The suspension stems from an alleged incident in early September in the Oak Park police station during which Priesmeyer is said to have referred to a former village employee with a racist slur in the presence of a police commander, a sergeant, and a community service officer.
Oak Park Chief of Police Rick Tanksley declined to comment on the matter Friday beyond what was in the formal charges he submitted to the police disciplinary board.
In asking the board to suspend Priesmeyer for the maximum allowable period of 30 days without pay, Tanksley stated in the formal charges that Priesmeyer’s alleged conduct violated the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, and Rules Two, Six and Twenty of the Rules and Regulations of the Oak Park police department.
Priesmeyer’s conduct, Tanksley wrote in conclusion, “constitutes a substantial short coming, rendering (his suspension) ?necessary and appropriate because his conduct was detrimental to the order, discipline and efficiency of the police department.”
Besides the 30 day suspension, the department is also seeking a fine.
Commissioner Donna Cervini opened the proceedings by moving that there was probable cause to proceed with the hearing, she said, “based on the complete package of the statement of charges and factual background, and other information attached.” The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jay Fahn, and was subsequently approved.
The board then considered Tanksley’s motion to suspend Priesmeyer without pay until the resolution of his case. After Priesmeyer’s attorney, Tamara Cummings, waived a reading of the charges against him, the police department’s attorney, Patrick Luchansky asked the board to suspend Priesmeyer without pay for up to 30 days. That 30 day duration is the most stringent penalty the disciplinary board can impose on an officer short of dismissal from the force.
“We have charges of several rule violations by the officer, and ? conduct unbecoming (an officer) in making what we consider a totally inappropriate comment that is certainly not appreciated in this area or by this society any longer,” said Luchansky.
Luchansky argued that such an action was needed because Priesmeyer had been out of work with pay for nearly two months. That, he said, was both a bad precedent and “not good for the morale of the department.”
Cummings countered that there had been no adjudication of the charges against Priesmeyer, and to take him off the payroll without such adjudication would be unfair. Priesmeyer had been on administrative leave while the alleged incident was being investigated.
“It’s not Officer Priesmeyer’s fault (the investigation) took that long,” Cummings said.
After some 30 minutes of closed door deliberation, Cervini and Fahn agreed with the prosecution’s argument and ordered Priesmeyer suspended without pay. He is scheduled to appear again before the police disciplinary board on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 9 a.m.