The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

FOP On Stripping Officer In Stolen Car Case: No Way

What Use of Force paradigm, what due process is IAD following in stripping officer?

North Side residents of Chicago have been terrorized by a rash of carjackings and stolen vehicles, often by offenders brandishing guns. Residents are afraid to sit in their cars for even a few moments for fear that they will be confronted by the bands of armed thugs.

But what these North Side residents don’t realize is that the officers trying to combat these carjackings and thefts are not only risking their lives, they are risking their jobs as well. 

Consider what happened to Officer Luigi Sarli. 

Sarli was working a three-man tactical car earlier this month when the three got a call that a Jeep had been stolen from Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park when the driver left it there to go into a store. 

Because the Jeep had a tracking device, its owner could relay its location to dispatchers. Sarli’s team followed the announcements on the radio. As they approached the scene, they observed the Jeep in an alley. They pulled up, preparing to conduct an investigatory stop. But the Jeep began driving toward them. It careened out of the alley, right at the officers who were in uniform. Sarli was attempting to get out of the backseat of the car. 

The offender, now using the car as a deadly weapon, drove right into Sarli, who jumped backward into the car to protect himself from the attack. As the Jeep struck the police car, Sarli fired at the vehicle, whose driver was now engaged in using force to evade a felony arrest. As the Jeep pulled away, eliminating the threat, Sarli ceased firing. The offender escaped, and the Jeep was recovered nearby. 

The whole incident is captured on video.

For Sarli’s heroic attempts to capture a car thief? He was stripped of his police powers by the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs. No disciplinary process took place, no investigation. The department just stripped the officer (on what grounds?) of his police powers and sent him to callback. Sarli’s actions fell well within the use of force guidelines, yet the BIA took away his police powers.

This move by the BIA is troubling. Normally, the city’s civilian oversight agency, COPA, investigates officers’ use of force. But in this case, COPA did not complete an investigation of the incident and issued no findings. The city’s BIA took their own actions. In doing so, Sarli’s due process rights under the collective bargaining agreement were tossed aside as if they didn’t exist. 

One wonders what the residents of the North Side would think of such treatment of an officer trying to rid their community of armed carjackers. One wonders if the department gave any thought to what these actions will do to morale and the willingness of other officers to investigate crime and arrest offenders. 

In response, Field Rep and Legal Defense co-chair Bob Bartlett and FOP attorney Tim Grace are attacking the department, calling for Sarli’s immediate reinstatement:

“How is it, then, that the agency prescribed to investigate use of force [COPA] has determined that no charges should be brought, yet the department determined that Sarli should be stripped of his police powers and reassigned?” they wrote in a letter to the department. “The FOP demands that you restore Officer Sarli to full status pending any decisions.”

Bartlett and Grace are sending a copy of their letter to the aldermen in the wards affected by the crime wave of carjackings and auto thefts. 

And they are preparing their defense of Sarli.