NORMAL — Three Normal Police Department patrol officers have filed a lawsuit against the town alleging they have been improperly disciplined for failing to meet arrest quotas.
Officers Deborah Weir, Brian Larimore and Todd VanHoveln filed the lawsuit in McLean County Circuit Court. It accuses the department of violating their rights under the state's Whistleblower Act that protects workers from retaliation for reporting what they believe to be illegal acts.
Each of the night shift patrol officers claims in the lawsuit they have been disciplined for failure meet a minimum number of monthly arrests for traffic, criminal and ordinance violations.
Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner and Normal City Manager Mark Peterson declined to comment Wednesday, saying they had not seen the lawsuit. In comments earlier this year, Bleichner said the department has performance standards, but not quotas.
A law signed this year in Illinois makes such quota systems illegal.
Richard Steagall, attorney for the officers, said there is little opportunity for officers to makes arrests during the overnight hours when most people are sleeping. Urging officers to make arrests could lead to violations of people's constitutional rights, he said.
"They didn't sign up for their jobs to create tickets," said Steagall, adding that officers "get no credit for assistance calls where they are helping people. Those calls are more important than minor traffic tickets."
Weir, an NPD officer since 1991, contends she was given a letter of reprimand on Jan. 20, 2010, for failing to meet standards set during an August 2009 evaluation. The minimum number of arrests assigned to Weir was one traffic ticket each working day; one criminal arrest per month; three ordinance violations per month and one drunken driving citation every other month, the lawsuit claims.
For the month of December 2009, Weir issued 11 traffic tickets in 15 days and one ordinance violation — numbers that fell below the department quotas, according to the lawsuit.
In her July 2013 evaluation, Weir was told she was expected to issue one traffic ticket every day; make two criminal arrests each month; issue four ordinance violations a month and make one DUI arrest every other month.
A one-day suspension without pay was recommended and approved by City Manager Mark Peterson in January 2014 for Weir's failure to meet the quota, said the lawsuit.
Officer Brian Larimore, an officer with NPD since 2008, makes a similar complaint based on a July 15, 2013 notice that he did not meet the same quotas issued to Weir.
Officer Todd VanHoveln claims in the lawsuit that he was given an unsatisfactory performance evaluation in November 2010, October 2012 and May 2013 for failing short of the required number of arrests.
All three officers ask through their Peoria lawyer, Ryan McCracken, that an injunction be ordered to end the town's policy on arrest minimums. Weir asks that she be reimbursed the $300 in lost pay for her suspension.
The issue of quotas also is an issue in a pending criminal case against former Bloomington police officer Brent VanHoveln, who is the brother of Todd VanHoveln. The BPD officer was fired for allegedly falsifying traffic citations, but he has argued the city has a quota system that requires a set number of arrests and traffic stops.