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updated: 5/1/2012 10:53 PM

Fired Des Plaines cop alleges racial discrimination

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A former Des Plaines police officer fired earlier this year after allegations of misconduct has filed a racial discrimination complaint against the city with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

John Bueno, a 10-year veteran of the department, alleges a superior officer, former Deputy Chief Rich Rozkuszka, made derogatory and insensitive comments about his Hispanic heritage, both in private and public, according to the Nov. 28, 2011, complaint obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Bueno, who is of Mexican descent and was born in the United States, claims Rozkuszka would openly call him "the dirty Mexican," "Mexican" and "Puerto Rican," among other names.

"Rozkuszka would make unnecessary physical contact with me in the police station in an attempt to harass and intimidate me," the complaint alleges.

The city has filed a "position statement" in response to Bueno's complaint but has not provided a copy of it to the Daily Herald despite a Freedom of Information request.

Des Plaines Acting Police Chief Mike Kozak deferred any comments on the discrimination complaint to the City Manager's Office. City Manager Michael Bartholomew said Tuesday he was aware of Bueno's complaint but would comment no further.

"My human resources director, Mike Earl, is working on it with legal counsel," Bartholomew said. "It's potentially pending litigation."

In his complaint, Bueno claims as part of the discrimination he was pulled off a special police detail and lost overtime pay. Bueno's complaints about Rozkuszka's ongoing behavior and harassment to then-Police Chief Jim Prandini, in July of 2010 and May of 2011, did not result in any corrective action, the complaint alleges.

"At the time of this filing, I am currently on suspension for what I believe is discrimination based on my race and retaliation for my oral and written complaints regarding Rozkuszka's conduct," Bueno wrote in the complaint.

Bueno was suspended from the police department on Oct. 31, 2011, "relating to allegations that dated as far back as 24 months," per the complaint.

Rozkuszka retired after 29 years with the department around the time the discrimination complaint was filed. Prandini retired Jan. 1 after undergoing back surgery, having served more than 30 years with the department.

Bueno, who was fired March 2, and fellow patrol officer Andy Contreras were suspended last October pending an investigation into allegations regarding the conduct of a patrol officer.

Bueno and Contreras were charged administratively in February with misconduct. City officials have refused to share details about the circumstances that led to the charges.

Bueno has opted for a neutral third-party grievance arbitrator to get his job back instead of going through a public hearing. Bueno's attorney, Richard Reimer of Hinsdale, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Charges against Contreras were dropped after he and the city reached a settlement in April. Contreras, a 5-year department veteran, is expected to rejoin the police force after his four-month suspension is over by July.

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