Rockton police chief fired, again

Rockton police chief fired, again

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Editor’s note: Next week, The Rock River Times will present a story on the meeting held Tuesday night at Rockton Village Hall, where trustees announced whether they reinstated Rockton’s police chief or upheld the village president’s decision.

Rockton Village President David Dwyer announced his third termination of Police Chief Richard Meacham Jan. 3 after a breathalyzer test showed Meacham’s blood/alcohol level between .02 and .03 percent. The legal limit is .08

Two officers conducted the test after they smelled alcohol on Meacham’s breath Tuesday at a meeting. The meeting started at 6 p.m., and the test was taken at 9 p.m.

At village hall the night of the firing, an emotional Dwyer took his usual board seat and announced he fired Meacham because the chief was in uniform, carrying a weapon and driving a patrol car.

In addition, Dwyer said he fired Meacham for dishonesty. “He initially lied about having had any alcohol,” Dwyer said. Dwyer stated that before taking the test, Meacham said he hadn’t had alcohol; afterward, Meacham acknowledged he did, in fact, drink wine at dinner before the meeting.

“A police officer’s duty is to protect the public,” Dwyer said. He stated that at any time, an officer can be thrown into a life-or-death situation.

Meacham wanted to give himself a one-day

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suspension without pay, but Dwyer deemed that punishment unacceptable, Dwyer said.

Dwyer said if the board reinstates Meacham, “they’re going to have a lot to explain” to the public. Four of the six members must reinstate Meacham.

Before Tuesday night, trustees Anna Mae Bean, Scott Fridly and Dan Branecki hadn’t made a decision as to whether they would uphold Meacham’s decision. Bean wouldn’t comment until the meeting. Fridly and Branecki were unavialable for comment.

Reportedly,three trustees said they would reinstate Meacham—Scott Wallace, Lester Peterson and Dale Adams. Wallace declined to comment. Peterson couldn’t be reached.

“I think it was a terrible mistake that Chief Meacham made, first of all,” Adams said. “On the other hand, he didn’t break any laws. He wasn’t inebriated. He wasn’t incapacitated.”

He noted no ordinance exists for dismissal. “Rules clearly state you can’t have alcohol on your breath,” he contended. “I think a fairly strict disciplinary action is in order.”

Adams said he’s still open to punishment imposed upon Meacham. “We, indeed, will not put up with this type of action,” he contended, adding that the village should adopt a zero-tolerance policy.

The policy officer’s handbook states that officers shouldn’t have alcohol and not even a scent of alcohol, and the mayor, police chief and village board should decide the punishment, Dwyer said.

On Monday, Dwyer said, “The breathalyzer test is being challenged. They used a portable breathalyzer instead of a computer breathalyzer that does a printout. There’s supposedly a question of what it actually read. I feel what it read has no significance at all.

“This test was administered three hours after his arrival. If there was still a trace of alcohol, he would have to arrive with a minimum of .045. Even that doesn’t mean anything to me. I think an officer understands that expectation of his job. The higher the rank, the higher the pain.”

Dwyer fired Meacham in March 1999 because he learned Meacham falsified his job application. Meacham failed to mention he resigned under pressure from a position at the Marquette Police Department in 1981.

In August 1999, Dwyer terminated Meacham after finding out about allegations of sexual misconduct at Marquette.

Both times, the Rockton Village Board of Trustees reinstated Meacham.

The chief filed a lawsuit that August alleging that Dwyer humiliated him and deprived him of his civil rights. Meacham added six more defendants this spring who he believes conspired with Dwyer.

This November, the defendants, excluding Dwyer, settled. Terri Flodeen and Martha and Richard Dwyer were advised by their insurance companies to pay a “nuisance” fee to settle the case and avoid the cost of trial expenses. Because they lacked insurance, defendants Christine Vyborney and Gordon Merriman paid nothing. Meacham’s attorney dropped Louise Trull from the case this fall.

Lt. Steve Dickson is performing Meacham’s duties until the village board makes their ruling, . Meacham said his attorney, Margot Ely, advised him to refuse comment on the current situation.

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