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updated: 7/12/2017 4:40 PM

Fired Des Plaines cop may get job and back pay, but no badge or gun

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A Des Plaines cop previously fired for hitting a handcuffed prisoner will keep his $93,000-a-year job, receive nearly $200,000 in back pay and be eligible for a pension under terms of a tentative settlement agreement with the city.

Officer John Bueno -- who city officials terminated in 2012 amid accusations he beat arrestees, lied during an internal investigation and made false arrests -- will rejoin the police ranks if aldermen approve the settlement Monday.

The city won't give Bueno a badge, gun, uniform or a place to work in the police department. Instead, he'll be relegated to completing administrative tasks while working at home, according to the agreement.

Bueno also agreed to retire March 31, 2019 -- the first day he's eligible for a pension. He will be in a "last chance" period for the remainder of his employments, meaning the city can fire Bueno for any similar misconduct.

The city and the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union representing Bueno, have been arguing the case since 2012.

"We could continue to fight in court with the uncertainty that we could potentially lose," City Manager Mike Bartholomew said. "There would be no way to guarantee he would retire."

The internal investigation determined Bueno violated the city's policy for use of force, failed to disclose his use of force and lied about it during the investigation. While an arbitrator agreed Bueno had broken the rules, he determined the 10-year veteran could return to work after a suspension.

The arbitrator determined the city erred in firing Bueno because officials delayed investigating the incidents. The loss of video evidence potentially helpful to Bueno's defense and the witnesses' fading memories contributed to a possibly prejudiced case, the arbitrator found.

The arbitrator also determined the department's command staff condoned Bueno's use of force, concluding the city lacked just cause to fire him.

The city challenged the decision, but eventually an Illinois appellate court returned the case to arbitration. Earlier this year, an arbitrator determined Bueno was unlikely to repeat the misconduct and ruled he should be reinstated.

"We believe there's a possibility he could repeat that offense although the court doesn't agree," Bartholomew said.

Bueno has been either a defendant or the subject of several federal lawsuits.

In August 2010, Bueno punched a handcuffed man sitting in the back seat of his patrol car in a parking garage. The city settled a federal lawsuit brought by the suspect for $64,000.

Bueno also was named 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 the case in 2012 for $32,500.

In a separate lawsuit filed in August 2012, former Deputy Chief Richard Rozkuska argued he was forced out of the department for reporting Bueno's misconduct. The city eventually settled the lawsuit for $187,500, though city officials called the allegations frivolous.

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