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Beloit Township committee to review officer’s suspension

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ANN MARIE AMES
April 27, 2010
— An ad hoc disciplinary committee expects to decide by Friday whether a five-day unpaid suspension was appropriate discipline for a police officer who left his squad car unattended while the gas tank overflowed.

The Town of Beloit Police and Fire Disciplinary Committee on Monday morning heard testimony from several witnesses before convening into closed session to talk about the case.


Officer Chris Luzinski has asked the committee to review a five-day suspension ordered by Police Chief John Wilson. Luzinski has served the suspension, town attorney Bill Henderson said.


Luzinski said Monday morning he doesn’t think the five-day suspension is a fitting punishment for the mistake he made.


“Eight gallons of gas does not equal $1,200 in pay,” said police union attorney Kyle McCoy, who was representing Luzinski.


Prosecuting attorney Jim Korom accused Luzinski of not recognizing the seriousness of the gas spill and not following department policies after the spill.


The suspension is necessary to make Luzinski and other officers recognize the gravity of the mistake, Korom said.


On several occasions during Luzinski’s testimony, Korom accused Luzinski of minimizing the spill.


Luzinski said he has been on the defensive since the spill because he was afraid Wilson would use the incident as a reason to fire him.


“I knew I made a mistake,” Luzinski said. “I knew in my opinion the chief would do everything he could to make it as serious an offense as possible, so yes, I was defensive from the get-go.”


Luzinski is looking for a job at another department and doesn’t want disciplinary action on his personnel file, he said.


Luzinski on Feb. 12 went to Stop-n-Go, 907 E. Inman Parkway, Beloit, to fuel his squad car. Luzinski left the pump running and went inside the store to buy Diet Mountain Dew to take back to the department.


He did not punch out of his car by computer or radio, which is a violation of department policy, the complaint states.


While Luzinski was away from the car, 8 to 12 gallons of fuel spilled, the complaint states. Luzinski said he checked with the gas station attendant, who said everything was fine.


Luzinski left the scene. He intended to report the incident to Sgt. David Dransfield when he got to the police station, which is a block from the gas station, Luzinski said during testimony.


In a resulting investigation, the attendant said he did not tell Luzinski everything was fine.


The police department paid $775 for the cleanup and the spilled gasoline, the complaint states.


Luzinski put the public’s safety at risk and put the town at risk of liability, the complaint states.


The disciplinary committee was formed in the fall of 2009, but Monday was the first time it had heard a case.


Henderson said he would write findings based on the committee’s closed-session meeting and expected to release the findings Friday. The committee could decide the suspension was appropriate or determine Luzinski deserved a greater or lesser punishment, Henderson said.



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