Deception, Even In Death, of an Illinois Cop
Nov. 6, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, all sorts of things happen. They are honored for their sacrifice, for giving the ultimate measure of devotion to the well-being of their fellow man. They get an official police funeral, with hundreds of officers attending, with a police escort that stretches for miles, an honor guard, three volleys fired over the grave, and a bugler playing Taps. The widow (or widower) gets a folded flag.
The family gets other benefits too. The Department of Justice pays the family over $333,000 dollars in death benefits. State benefits vary, but some are also significant, like Illinois, which pays over $320,000. They normally draw a pension benefit of up to 75% of the officer’s pay. The health insurance for the surviving spouse and minor children are paid for by the state. They also get a tuition waiver at any state school for up to 120 hours (basically a bachelors degree).
Every bit of that is deserved and warranted—when the death was in the line of duty by an officer performing their job with valor and courage.
Or, in some cases, it could just be another betrayal of the public trust.
In Fox Lake, Illinois, Police Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz was found dead after he had called in that he was checking on three suspicious male subjects and then that he was in foot chase of them. He had been shot twice with his own gun. More than 400 cops from around the area converged to search for the suspects. None were ever located.
A former Chicago police officer, Joe Battaglia, alleged that Gliniewicz committed suicide and threatened the coroner and the head of the investigative task force unless they declared the death a suicide. Battaglia was arrested for the threats and made to look the fool by the local police. He may be a fool, but he was right about one thing—Gliniewicz committed suicide.
You see, Gliniewicz and his wife ran the local police Explorer program, a program originally sponsored by the Boy Scouts, and now by a subsidiary to introduce young high-school age people to police work. It’s a great program and how I became interested in police work. But Gliniewicz didn’t just run the program, he stole from it too. Gliniewicz was under investigation about the funds for the program by the town’s first professional administrator, Anne Marrin. He apparently looked at hiring a hitman to kill Marrin and possibly intended to plant cocaine on her to discredit her.
Instead, as the walls were closing in, he chose the cowards way out, but in such a way that was true to form. He committed suicide, but staged the crime scene, as only a cop would be able to do. His pepper spray canister was found, then following the path, his baton, followed by his glasses and a spent shell casing. Finally, his body, with his gun nearby in the swamp, hidden in the weeds. But there were no signs of a struggle on the uniform, no indication that Gliniewicz had been in a fight.
It’s pretty clear to me what happened here. Gliniewicz was a thief who was about to be discovered and disgraced and he couldn’t deal with that. So he was going to take the easy way out, and in the meantime, set up his family for life by defrauding the government and the public. He was perfectly happy to stage the scene so that it looked like a line of duty death, his family would get hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits. He would be a hero, enshrined forever in the annals of law enforcement.
Now he is not even listed on the Officer Down Memorial Page website. Nor should he be. He was held up as an example of the dangers police officers face, as part of the #policelivesmatter effort. Only he wasn’t. In my opinion, he was a thief and a con artist. All he cared about was his own interests, and he acted according to those interests.
However, he does provide a shining example of what the public needs to do in any case involving a police officer. They need to demand a thorough, transparent, and complete investigation that finds the truth and publicizes it. When that shows an officer making the ultimate sacrifice for the public, we can hold them out as a hero, as an example of the best of the police profession.
But when the investigation shows police officer misconduct, the facts need to be held out and presented to the public also. To show that the chips will fall as they will, that the truth is what is important. To show that we will not tolerate that type of conduct and will not allow it to be honored.