Elgin cop fired for being arrested in Michigan
Lance Adams III, a 10-year veteran of the Elgin Police Department, was fired last week after an internal investigation of his arrest last year at a Michigan amusement park determined his roughing up park employees, his subsequent behavior while in custody and his conviction violated several police department and city rules, records show.
"As chief of police, I see the actions of Lance Adams, which led to his criminal conviction, as completely unacceptable," Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda said. "Termination is the appropriate discipline in this case."
Adams, 51, of Huntley, was terminated last Monday, nine months after he was sentenced to fines and probation for a misdemeanor offense in Muskegon County, Mich. Adams pleaded no contest to attempted resisting and obstructing an officer while at the county jail, and his other charges were dropped.
Police union attorney Tim O'Neil filed a grievance against Adams' termination Thursday. If that doesn't end in Adams' reinstatement -- and he doesn't expect it to -- O'Neil is prepared to go through arbitration, a lengthy procedure in which both sides present evidence to a hearing officer. The process could take at least six months.
"It's going to be a huge waste of taxpayer money," O'Neil warned. "In the meantime, a longtime veteran police officer with high marks and highly esteemed by his peers will be without a paycheck or health insurance."
Adams was making $84,137 a year when he was fired. He did not return several phone calls for comment. According to Adams' disciplinary report, his Michigan arrest was the final straw in a long list of inappropriate conduct. In 2007, Adams was suspended for 30 days without pay and was cited on one day that July for wearing his uniform while off duty, carrying his gun after drinking, showing his gun for no reason during an overtime detail at a nightclub, drinking while in uniform and then driving a squad car, among other things.
That August, Adams signed a disciplinary settlement agreement in which he admitted to the misconduct. He was ordered to complete the city's employee assistance program for the evaluation, counseling and treatment for alcohol and other substance abuse.
One clause warned: "In the event Adams engages in any conduct which violates any of the city or departmental rules cited herein or consumes alcohol without express authorization by city while on duty; or fails to abide by the terms or provisions of this agreement, at any time, prior to September 1, 2011, such infraction(s) shall constitute and be construed as just cause for Adams' termination."
Lisa Womack was police chief at the time, while Swoboda was deputy chief.
"The discipline handed down by then Chief Womack five years ago was deemed appropriate at the time," Swoboda said.
Two years after signing the agreement, Adams found himself in the city's cross hairs again.
Between September 2009 and January 2011 he received reprimands for crashing three squad cars and for failing to make an arrest during a domestic battery investigation.
But less than two months before Adams' "last chance" agreement was set to expire, he and his nephew were arrested on July 16, 2011, on charges they attacked two amusement park workers who wouldn't let them on a ride at Michigan's Adventure amusement park, police said.
The workers barred them from the ride because the pair appeared to be intoxicated, according to the police report. Another report, filed July 19, said Adams resisted a police officer in the county jail. Jail staff members struck Adams in an attempt to gain control, but the report said no one was injured in the scuffle.
All three of the original charges were dropped. Adams pleaded no contest to one final misdemeanor charge, attempted resisting and obstructing an officer, for which he was sentenced to six months of probation and $678 in fines and fees.
Adams had been on restricted duty since his arrest. Swoboda fired him last Monday.
"Lance Adams' conduct in Michigan is well short of what I and the community expect from a law enforcement professional and simply can't be tolerated," Swoboda said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Tara García Mathewson contributed to this report