Wanted ex-Woodridge cop has checkered past
Before he was wanted on charges of stealing $30,000 from a police charity, former Woodridge patrol officer Scott Webb was disciplined by his own department eight times for a variety of infractions ranging from repeated tardiness to damaging village property, public records show.
Webb, 39, resigned in March before a police and fire commission could put on a formal hearing into allegations he pocketed more than $30,000 in donations raised for the nonprofit Concerns of Police Survivors.
But discipline records obtained by the Daily Herald under a Freedom of Information Act request show his prior professional record was far from spotless.
"A lot of these things are minor on the face, but it's a pattern obviously that is pretty egregious," said Rob Warden, who is director of Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions and has worked in criminal justice for 45 years.
Records show Webb was first reprimanded in March 2000, less than three months after he joined the force, for holding a second job at the Hometown Police Department, south of Midway Airport in Cook County, in violation of a village policy against working for two police agencies.
From there, his record appeared to be clean until 2008, when he didn't show up on time for work or court hearings on three separate occasions, eventually receiving a one-day suspension.
In January 2009, Webb was given another written reprimand after crashing a squad car into a light pole and fence as he passed a vehicle while responding to an emergency call. Yet another reprimand followed two months later after he used a colleague's workstation to communicate with other police squads, indicating he was the other officer, according to disciplinary records.
The following year, in January 2010, Webb received a second, one-day suspension for damaging a village gas pump. According to the village, he drove a squad car away without removing the hose from the gas tank, damaging the connection on the pump. Records say he reconnected the hose and didn't tell a supervisor. He was disciplined after another officer found the damage and reported it.
Webb's final discipline -- a weeklong suspension -- came in June 2010 after he again failed to appear in court as assigned.
It wasn't until last summer that administrators confronted Webb with rumors he hadn't turned in donations from two, union-sponsored "Crawlin' for the Fallen" pub crawl fundraisers to the Concerns of Police Survivors, an organization that assists families of officers killed in the line of duty or who otherwise die on the job.
According to the records, Webb claimed he mailed the money to the organization, but he resigned several months later after the police and fire commission filed formal charges against him.
Police Chief Steve Herron, who handed out Webb's discipline, declined to comment on the officer's work history. And neither Village President William Murphy nor a representative of the Woodridge police union responded to requests for comment.
"The discipline I give is the discipline I give," Herron said.
The village's police-union contract does not specify grounds for termination, and its department regulations manual outlines only general terms of situations that warrant discipline. The contract does show, however, that Webb's salary increases over the years were in line with what other union officers who had similar levels of experience received.
From the time he joined the force in 2000, Webb's salary climbed from $36,600 to $88,700, according to the village.
Law enforcement experts agreed that contracts often make it difficult for departments to let go of union patrol officers, but they offered different views on the severity of Webb's professional offenses.
"The disciplinary background of the officer is only relevant if it puts the police department on notice that this was the sort of guy who might use his reputation to raise money and steal it," said Lawrence Schlam, a professor of constitutional law at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. "He's obviously not your best cop. He's not very conscientious. But this is not an abnormal record. He was late; he banged up his car."
Schlam and Warden each said they believed it would be tough for a department to fire Webb despite his checkered past.
"There's rules to protect the officers and, more importantly, municipal officials are in no hurry to alienate their police and fire departments," Schlam said. "Unions are very powerful and they resist having their people disciplined."
"This is a pretty incredible record this guy's got," Warden added. "But police unions protect people who otherwise would have been fired long ago, and that's an unfortunate fact of life."
Webb, who last lived on the 1700 block of Rebecca Drive in Romeoville, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of felony theft.
Investigators with the DuPage County state's attorney's office said they are actively pursuing Webb, who was indicted in May and whose whereabouts remain unknown. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call (630) 719-4740, authorities said.