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posted: 12/16/2013 10:51 PM

Judge: Fired Des Plaines cop doesn't have to be rehired

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A former Des Plaines police officer fired for using excessive force against detainees doesn't have to be rehired, a Cook County judge has ruled.

John Bueno, a 10-year veteran of the police department, was terminated in March 2012, following an internal city investigation that found he violated the city's policy for use of force, failed to disclose his use of force, and lied about it during the investigation.

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An arbitrator determined that Bueno violated the department's rules and regulations but decided he should only be given a 15-month suspension, while also placing other conditions upon his return to duty.

The arbitrator said Bueno could return to work June 3.

The city went to court to challenge the arbitrator's decision that Bueno should get his job back, and last Friday, Cook County circuit court Judge Sophia Hall ruled in favor of the city, city officials said Monday.

City Manager Mike Bartholomew said it would have been "bad public policy" had Bueno been allowed to return to his police beat, creating a morale issue for the police department and a liability issue for the city.

"We couldn't put him back on the street. His credibility would be terrible. All of his arrests would be undermined (in court)," Bartholomew said.

Keith Karlson, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union representing Bueno against his dismissal, said in an email Monday night that the "city's celebration is premature."

"The judge's most recent decision is not final and the parties are still arguing the case before the court," Karlson said. "The judge's most recent decision does not undo the city's approval of Officer Bueno's actions at the time; nor does the preliminary decision change the fact that the city destroyed evidence essential to the officer's defense."

"The union still believes the arbitrator's award is appropriate and should be affirmed."

City officials said Bueno's dismissal stemmed from his handling of the Aug. 12, 2010, arrest of Sergio Toutges, who said he was intimidated, threatened and punched in the face by Bueno as he was handcuffed in the back seat of Bueno's squad car. Bueno and another officer were transporting Toutges from the Elmhurst police station to Des Plaines after Toutges was picked up on an arrest warrant for attempting to run over an officer.

Toutges filed suit against the city in federal court in which Bueno was also named as a defendant, but the case was settled out of court earlier this year for $64,000.

Bueno was also named as a defendant in a 2009 federal lawsuit filed by a resident who said she was falsely arrested and mistreated by three police officers, including Bueno. The city settled that case for $32,500 last year.

Meanwhile, Bueno filed a federal suit earlier this year against the city in which he alleges a superior officer made "unwelcome, humiliating and offensive racial slurs and anti-Hispanic comments and misconduct." That suit is still pending.

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