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Crime & Courts

Former Downers Grove police officer sues village over military service accommodations

Suit claims Police Department refused to accommodate the officer’s Army Reserve training

DOWNERS GROVE – A former member of the Downers Grove Police Department has filed a lawsuit against the village of Downers Grove and Village Manager Dave Fieldman, contending the village “made working conditions intolerable and hostile" because of her participation in the Army Reserve, according to the suit.

The suit was filed Aug. 19 in U.S. District Court on behalf of Carissa Smith, who was a member of the Police Department until March 2018 when she resigned.

Smith’s attorney, Christopher Cooper, said Smith was a member of the department for about three years. The suit contends the department would not accommodate her Army Reserve drill schedule.

“Plaintiff Smith’s participation in United States of America military service was a substantial and motivating factor of adverse employment actions imposed by defendant on plaintiff by Downers Grove,” the suit states.

Smith, who is now a member of the Joliet Fire Department, is seeking $750,000 in damages, according to the suit.

"They forced her into a resignation," Cooper said. "Because the Downers Grove Police Department would not allow her to do both, she left and went to Joliet."

Specifically, the suit contends, Smith was punished for having to attend weekend military drills.

“The extreme, liberal, anti-united military animus by Downers Grove and its then-police chief, Kurt Bluder, along with the current Chief of Police, namely Shannon Gillette, joined with Village Manager David Fieldman, included disallowing plaintiff changes of shift where a drill would begin immediately following a police shift. This meant that plaintiff would have to work, by example from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and then to go straight to drill,” the suit states.

Bluder left Downers Grove to become the chief of the La Grange Police Department, and Gillette, who served as deputy chief, is now the chief.

The village does not comment on pending litigation, said Doug Kozlowski, the village’s communications director.

However, the village's motion to dismiss, which was filed Sept. 11, states Smith's complaint is "long on conclusions and short on any factual allegations which would plausibly support these conclusions."

For example, the suit alleges Smith was punished for having “to attend and participate in weekend military drills and deployments," but the complaint does not include specifics regarding the punishment, according to the village's response.

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