Police union backs Johnson

Rockford’s police union has filed a formal grievance against the city for allegedly violating their collective bargaining agreement. The police union alleges the violation occurred when Officer Steve Johnson was fired for alleged violations of police commission and department rules, regulations and/or policies and/or orders.

City officials allege Johnson was fired last month for tipping off a friend that he was about to be arrested. Dan Cain, one of Johnson’s attorneys, acknowledged Johnson called friend Jeremy Jones before police attempted to arrest Jones. However, Cain said Johnson was attempting to persuade Jones to surrender to police peacefully.

Details of Johnson’s controversial two-day hearing before the Rockford Police Commissioners were described in the July 2 and Aug. 27 issues of The Rock River Times.

Doug Block, president of the Policeman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (PBPA), Unit 6 said: “…the discipline provided in this case was a violation of Article 15.9 (A) in that it [Johnson’s termination] was not ‘progressive’ nor designed to ‘improve’ behavior and only served to ‘punish’ behavior,” Block wrote in the Sept. 4 letter to Rockford Police Chief Steve Pugh.

Article 15.9 (A) of the collective bargaining agreement reads, “Discipline in the Rockford Police Department shall be for cause and shall be progressive and corrective, designed to improve, not merely punish behavior.”

Pugh said “The union has grieved other problems, and we’ll work through this one the way we’ve worked through the others.”

Debra Schafer, of Sreenan and Cain, P. C., Johnson’s other attorney said “…the board should impose one of the lesser forms of discipline since Officer Johnson had not previously had any disciplinary problems. …The board [of commissioners] rejected that very basic idea.

“I am not surprised the union voted to take action since it leaves other union members vulnerable in future disciplinary situations,” Schafer said.

During the second day of Johnson’s hearing, commissioners that voted to fire Johnson seemed inattentive and appeared to doze. Cain and Schafer presented their side of the Johnson’s case during the hearing’s second day.

Commissioners did not respond to messages for comment about the second day of the hearing.

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