Last March Hoffman Estates police were responding to a complaint of loud noise and a marijuana smell coming from a hotel room in the northwest suburb.
But before officers arrived, people in the hotel room received a phone call warning them that cops were on their way – a tip that allegedly came from another Hoffman Estates patrolman, according to police reports.
The officer who allegedly made the phone call had briefly met two of the female partygoers earlier that night during a traffic stop, police records show.
Details of the hotel incident are limited as the police department wouldn’t talk about what happened and documents we obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act were heavily redacted.
But one of the female partygoers told police that the officer called her at least twice in the roughly two hours between the traffic stop and the hotel incident. One call came in while she was in the hotel room; she put the phone on speaker and heard the officer on the line say, “We got a call, the police are coming,” documents show. It’s not clear how the since-resigned officer knew they were at the hotel.
Either way, moments later the responding police officers arrived at the hotel room and the second female partygoer, who, at a later date, was arrested for prostitution in an undercover sting in Aurora, told them “one of your cops keeps calling us, and he just called telling us that the cops were on the way,” according to police records.
The now-departed officer, who we decided not to name because no criminal or administrative charges were ever filed, left the police department in September after signing a separation agreement with Hoffman Estates. We reached him on the phone this past week, but he declined to talk to us about what happened.
Though he was not formerly charged with wrongdoing, the case raises several questions not only about the officer’s professionalism, but also about how the village handled the matter.
Underscoring the severity of the situation, David Bradford, executive director of Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety, said the alleged advance warning could have turned the police encounter into a “real fiasco.”
“All kinds of things could have been going on in that room and for them to know that officers were coming, at the very least it could give them the opportunity to dispose of evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” Bradford said, when briefed on the situation. “And depending on what was going on in there, it could have set the officers up for great bodily harm.”
It appears no one was injured on the scene, but two people who were in the hotel room did escape out of a first-floor window, documents show. The two female partygoers were asked to leave, which they did, the report said.
After the incident, the officer, who was making about $92,000 a year, was moved to desk duty and the police department, which has about 90 sworn officers and serves a community of roughly 52,000, began investigating allegations of official misconduct.
It’s unclear whether or not prosecutors were contacted at the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. A spokeswoman for the office was unfamiliar with the case.
Arthur Janura, an attorney for the Village of Hoffman Estates, said the municipality was still investigating the matter when the officer voluntarily resigned. The resignation took effect Sept. 22, and he was then on paid leave until Sept. 29, according to the separation agreement.
Janura downplayed the episode, saying: “It’s just a dispute, and before it came to a head, the guy resigned. That’s not uncommon.”
According to the separation agreement, the officer’s departure “resulted from the parties’ mutual desire to resolve any and all matters and controversies between them, and to amicably effectuate” the officer’s separation with the village and “does not constitute and shall not be interpreted as an admission of liability on the part of” the officer or the village.
The village board did not need to approve the agreement because no payout was involved, Janura said.
This column – a new regular feature called The Public Eye, appearing on the Chicago Sun-Times’ political portal Early & Often – was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Katie Drews. She can be reached at (312) 821-9027 or email@example.com.