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Lieutenants join forces with sergeants in lawsuit aimed at forcing Emanuel to schedule lieutenants exam

The Chicago Police Lieutenants Association agreed Wednesday to join forces with sergeants in a lawsuit filed last week seeking to compel Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a lieutenants exam they suspect is being held up in retaliation for the sergeants’ endorsement of mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti.

Tom Pleines, an attorney representing both groups, said the lieutenants have a vested interest in the outcome of the case, and so does the public.

The Chicago Police Department is already 25 lieutenants short of its authorized strength of 221 at a time when police-involved shootings in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and elsewhere have highlighted the need for more supervision.

And there is widespread speculation that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is lobbying Emanuel behind the scenes to lift the requirement that sergeants be on the job for two years to take the lieutenants exam and remain there for three years before being promoted.

Eliminating the so-called “time-in-rank” requirement would allow police officers who got merit promotions to the rank of sergeant to qualify for the lieutenants exam.

“There are situations where people have been promoted to lieutenant and, in less than six months, they’ve been made commanders. That makes people very suspicious about what’s motivating their meteoric rise. That who you know, not what you know is what it takes to rise up to the exempt ranks of the Police Department — even now,” Pleines said, contradicting Emanuel’s declaration on the day the city got out from under the Shakman decree.

“What’s involved in this case is a very serious matter of great importance to the upper echelons of the Chicago Police Department. Speculation is, there are certain people who have just recently made sergeant in the last one or two groups who would not be eligible to take the exam or be promoted who City Hall wants promoted, so they’ve got to get rid of time-in-rank.”

Although it sounds like inside baseball, Pleines said the outcome of the case is equally important to the public because it affects the quality of police protection and supervision in Chicago.

“If someone dials 911 and needs the police, they want experienced, competent police officers to respond — not somebody who achieved his rank based upon who his brother-in-law is,” Pleines said.

“And with all the current focus and attention on police activities and shootings, both here and in other cities, proper supervision is a must for the public to be assured that the police officers are acting appropriately within department guidelines and according to the law. They’re already short-handed. They’re not gonna cure the problem by putting people in those positions who don’t have the experience to do the job properly.”

Last week, the sergeants association filed a lawsuit accusing Emanuel of violating a 2012 agreement to schedule the lieutenants exam as soon as possible.

It came just two weeks after the sergeants association endorsed Fioretti, citing the alderman’s promise to bolster the police force by 500 officers and the commuter tax he has proposed to solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis.

Pleines called the timing suspect.

“We’re suspicious that this promotional opportunity was being dangled out in front of the sergeants in order to induce them to endorse the mayor. We don’t want City Hall holding promotional opportunities depending on how people vote,” he said then.

Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins responded to the lawsuit by maintaining that “the most important point” is that CPD will offer a lieutenants promotional exam in 2015, something that has not been done for eight years.

Collins also said that in the past three and a half years, CPD has significantly increased the pace of hiring and promotions at all levels and graduated 1,149 new officers from the academy. Besides the planned lieutenants exam, the department last year made the first promotions to detective in five years and offered the first sergeants promotional exam in seven years.

“These are important opportunities in the careers of every officer, and we take them very seriously,” Collins said.

Last year, the City Council ratified a contract that gave lieutenants an 8 percent pay raise over four years but required them to contribute 2 percent toward retiree health care previously provided at no cost.

The agreement mimicked the terms that an independent arbitrator dictated to sergeants after the rank and file rejected a negotiated agreement billed as a road map to solve the city’s pension crisis.

The 8 percent pay raise is only a “floor.” If the Illinois General Assembly mandates a pension contribution higher than the current 9 percent, lieutenants can negotiate a higher pay raise.

Like the sergeants, lieutenants who retire at age 55 will continue to be eligible for health care. But future retirees between the ages of 55 and 60 will be forced to make a 2 percent contribution to retiree health care that’s now free.

On the disciplinary front, the contract includes provisions to more swiftly resolve investigations of lieutenants handled by the Internal Affairs Division or the Independent Police Review Authority.